Al Gore, you’re my hero!

I’ve never cared for shopping — actual drive-to-a-store-and-walk-around shopping. I especially dread shopping with other people, because they want to look at things I have no interest in. They also like to linger, whereas I prefer to speed-shop.

Let me explain: When I shop, I’m on a quest for something specific. It could be a top or skirt, a pair of shoes, a handbag — whatever it is, when I find it, I will have one more piece of the puzzle that is the outfit I’ve mentally sketched.

My objective upon entering any store is to determine as quickly as possible whether or not they have the piece I need. If they don’t, I want to exit as quickly as possible so as to avoid encountering a sales associate. (Since I probably have only a vague image in my mind of what it is that I’m searching for, I have no way of articulating it to a salesperson. But once I open my mouth, I will have locked myself into a fruitless exchange with someone whose only real goal is to sell me something, whether it’s what I’m looking for or not. In the mean time, some other shopper could be in another store, buying the last remaining whatever-it-is on earth! Seconds count in this game!)Photo of pink ombre pumps by Prada

I’m not always successful at avoiding salespeople, though. The ones who are onto my strategy will quietly sidle up to me when I’m looking at something, and I won’t know they’re there until I hear:

“Can I help you find something?”

“Crap!” I think to myself. Then I give my stock, “No thanks, I’m just looking,” and make my escape.

I don’t always get myself out of it. The perfect storm consists of me having a clear shopping target, and the sales associate catching me when I’m exhausted from having just asked 30 of her brethren to leave me alone.

In my early shopping years, I was especially vulnerable to this type of attack. The first time it happened, I was shopping for clothes before going away to college. I had recently picked up a couple of outfits that were screaming for a pair of electric-blue flats. I covered the closest mall — Woodfield in Schaumburg — and felt pretty confident there were no such shoes to be found in the greater Chicagoland area. But I remembered another shoe store that was on my way home, and stopped.

I walked in, and before the clerk could finish asking me if there was anything he could help me find, I had already completed my visual sweep of the store. No electric-blue flats in sight.

I gave him a polite “No,” but he persisted.

“I’ve looked, and you guys don’t have what I’m looking for,” I replied, turning to leave.

“We might,” he said, giving me a glimmer of false hope as he explained they had more inventory in the back.

So I described the shoes I wanted, and told him my size.

“Let me check.”

I waited. And I will admit that, as the guy came out of that back room holding a couple of shoe boxes, I started to think I’d misjudged the situation.

I didn’t get very far with that thought, though. I don’t remember what was in those boxes, but it wasn’t electric-blue flats. Not even close. Dude tried his best to convince me they were, but since I’m neither an idiot nor colorblind, he was unsuccessful.

It only takes a couple of whirls around this dance floor to learn it’s best not to talk to salespeople. Man, before the Internet, when I had to go out and shop, I could cover an entire mall in less than 15 minutes. (I actually timed myself once. Full disclosure: It wasn’t Woodfield.)

Image of a fabric store.

The stuff of nightmares.

At this point in my post, the reason I hate shopping with other people should be obvious. Most people don’t shop like it’s a Navy SEAL operation. For them, shopping is a leisurely activity. Whereas, for me, the idea of being trapped with someone who wants to browse through e v e r y   r a c k   o f   c l o t h i n g  is pure agony. That’s the kind of shopping that gives me flashbacks to torturous childhood trips to the fabric store with my mother.

Needless to say, I was an early adopter of online shopping. I have been buying everything I can online since the late ’90s. I love that I can cover far more ground in 10 minutes online than I ever could in real life, because I can look for things in other countries. No decent shoes or dresses in the U.S.? No problem! On to the UK websites.

A few years ago, it struck me that, pre-Internet, I was “search shopping” at malls and stores all along, looking for one very specific item based on a string of search terms. While that kind of shopping doesn’t yield good results in the real world, the Internet was made for it.

And now that the Internet has caught up with my method of shopping, I can actually find the things I’m looking for! That never happened at a mall. If a shopping trip didn’t end in a complete bust, it was only because I compromised.

Online shopping is not without its frustrations, though. One search for a black sweater led me to this item on the Express website:

Image of a sheer top, labeled as a sweater.

It’s labeled “Cropped Sheer Stripe Sweater.” Express: I hate to be the one to break it to you, but THIS IS NOT A SWEATER. (And that should be “Striped,” btw.)

[I’m digressing here, but this whole post is a digression, so what the hell: There’s something fundamentally wrong with the concept of cropped sweaters. If it’s cold enough for a sweater, and your navel is exposed, you’re going to freeze. If it’s warm enough for a bare midriff, you’re going to want to cut the sleeves off within an hour. End digression.]

The length of the “sweater” is only one-third of the problem. This particular garment is also sheer. And sleeveless. Sure, it would be a fun little top to wear out for cocktails on a summer evening. But a sweater, it is not.

Wading through bad search results like this is par for the course, and only one of the inherent frustrations of online shopping. The only remedy I see for this problem is more accurate product description, which doesn’t seem to be too much to ask.

Aside: If every retailer were to hire me to write their product descriptions, this problem would go the way of smallpox.

Even more frustrating to me than not finding what I’m looking for, is finding exactly what I’m looking for, only to discover it’s from another season and no longer available. It happens all the time, and largely because of blog posts. Three years from now, someone will go to a search engine, key in “women’s sheer black cropped sweater,” and land on this post. She’ll fall in love with the image above, think, “My search is over! This is IT!” and be completely ecstatic . . . until she goes to the Express site and finds out the top is no longer in existence.

Do I feel bad about it? A little. But it’s happened to me countless times with housewares, makeup, furniture, antiques, purses. I’ll chalk this one up to karma.

Photo of a vintage orange Preway-brand freestanding fireplace.

Even more heinous are the entire evil blogs that are nothing more than venues for their authors to brag about the cool antiques they just scored through Craigslist, or at a local estate sale.

You know, Bloggy Bloggerson, I’m happy you found a blemish-free vintage orange Preway cone fireplace for $500. But if you’re not interested in selling it to me, kindly stop tormenting me with it!

(In looking for an image of just such a fireplace for this post, I found an example of yet another form of online-shopper torture: The “local-pickup only” auction listing. Can anyone explain what something this awesome is doing in Nebraska?! And why do the people squirreling away all the cool stuff hate shipping things so much?)


Despite these pet peeves, I adore online shopping. I’ve found some great things online; stuff I’d never have been able to acquire through traditional means.

I still believe in supporting local businesses, though. So, if you’re a local store and you have one of these fireplaces, contact me immediately. I’ll be right there. And please don’t sell it to anyone else in the mean time!

Ooh — and when I get home, I can write a post about it to torment others for all eternity. 🙂

Image of Matthew Broderick as Ferris Bueller.

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I’m sorry! Was that rude?

Image of a turtle crossing a roadThis morning, I read a post about the rude things people do in, with, and via email. When I first saw the headline, I thought it was going to offer some helpful email etiquette tips along the lines of, “Always include a salutation, rather than just diving into your message.”

Instead, it was a mild rant about a whole list of things the poster finds annoying.

What I learned from reading it is that people have become oblivious to the things they do that are truly rude, and instead classify petty annoyances and eccentricities as impolite. There’s a gigantic difference.

One item on the list was “Using the read-receipt function.” Having worked for some really large companies, I can say the read receipt is a function that has its place. Yes, I’ve had people send me emails with read-receipt enabled and thought it was weird, but I’d never classify it as rude. Did it infringe on any of my personal, Constitutionally endowed freedoms? No. Did it insult me? No. Was it in any way inconsiderate? No. Was it odd? Yes. Did it irritate me? Maybe. Okay — so it was annoying, not rude.

So let’s talk about some things that are actually rude:

  • Using the express line at the grocery store when you have more than the maximum number of items in your basket. Why? Because, by doing so, you are asserting that your time is more valuable than that of the other people waiting behind you. It’s not. Everyone’s time is of equal value. Get into one of the regular lines and wait your turn like everyone else. It’s how people behave when they want to live among other people. If you don’t want to play by the rules, go off the grid.
    Still of George Costanza (Jason Alexander) in "Seinfeld."
  • Returning an item to a store after you’ve opened it, used it, bent it, written in it, worn it, eaten it, etc. That’s called stealing, and it’s extremely rude. Work for it, or go without it.
  • Not stopping your car to move a turtle off the road. Come on. Is where you’re going more important than the life of that poor little dude on the road? If you’re not driving someone to the ER (someone who legitimately needs an ER; as in, they’re bleeding to death), PULL OVER AND MOVE THE TURTLE. (Even then, I’d ask you to consider carefully whether you’re doing a real service to society by choosing your passenger over the turtle. Your decision will probably depend on how well you know him, whether he’s a relative or friend, etc.) 
  • Not covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Who didn’t learn this by age four?
  • Using the last of the water in the Keurig brewer and not refilling it. This is just uncivilized.

All rude behavior is annoying. But not everything that is annoying can rightfully be classified as rude. To call it so is akin to crying wolf, and it makes the crier look like a whiny brat.

Share the roads! Move the turtle.

Hiring managers: Please don’t assume

A nonlinear graphMy career path hasn’t exactly been linear. I skipped over a few titles here and there; jumped from the agency side to the client side; even veered off into a different career for a while.

It all makes sense to me. And when I can explain it, it makes sense to whomever I’m explaining it to. Where it presents a challenge is in those instances where I’m not able to explain; i.e., a job application.

People will make assumptions about your skills, knowledge, preferences, and ambition based on your current or most recent job title, and you have no way to confirm or deny them.

In my case, no title I’ve had has ever accurately described what I do. So if a recruiter or hiring manager gets my resume (or one of those god-awful online applications circa-2002 where you upload your complete resume and then re-key every single detail by hand), and only gives it a cursory scan, he or she might assume:

1) I’m all about “the big idea” and snappy headlines

2) Bill Bernbach is my idol

Photo of Bill Bernbach

3) I don’t care about details — that’s what proofreaders are for

4) My knowledge of fonts is based on what’s available on Microsoft Office

5) If you asked me to write a blog post or newsletter, I’d spontaneously disintegrate or have an aneurysm

6) I used stock art for the illustrations in my conceptual resume, or hired a designer

7) I’m a self-declared rebel who loves to stir up a charming amount of mayhem

8) I live for the Super Bowl, but only so I can watch the commercials.

They would, of course, be dead-wrong on all counts. 

Here’s the reality:

1) I’m all about getting the work done. I know you already have a big idea, so just tell me what it is so I can get the copy written. I’m a word person, not a “big idea” person. I can do the idea thing, but I don’t often enjoy it (mostly because ultra-competitive types suck all the joy out of the process). Let the people who love doing it, do it, and let me do what I do best.

 

2) Bill who?

 

image of a tennis shoe3) I live for details. One of my earliest memories involves a three-year-old me crying hysterically because I saw a typo on another kid’s shoe. Yes, this is a true story; my mother was there, and can corroborate.

 

4) I’m serious about typography. If you ever hear me say “font” when I mean “typeface,” or vice versa, I’m doing it to avoid confusing those who think the terms are interchangeable. I started my career as a proofreader for a typesetter. So watch your kerning, hang your punctuation, and don’t ever use the ellipsis key-command on a project I’m involved in, because I will mark it up.

 

5) I love writing long copy. I also love writing traditional DM letters and emails, customer communications, website copy, legal copy, instructional copy. . . . In fact, make a list of the types of copy you think most copywriters hate to write. That’s the stuff I enjoy writing the most.

 

6) That is so not my style. We’re talking about my personal brand, so I want to own every detail. While it’s true that I cannot draw a stick figure to save my life, I drew/painted (using watercolor pencils) and retouched (extensively in some cases, to make up for the fact that I can neither draw nor paint) all the illustrations. I began each one by tracing a photograph.

1) Original image; 2) unretouched watercolor; 3) final art

1) Original image; 2) unretouched watercolor; 3) (almost) final art

 

7) I’m a rules follower and, above all, I obey the rules of common sense. I hope that doesn’t make me a rebel (but fear it does). And while I can handle intermittent chaos, I don’t cultivate it. I’d rather get my work done.

That doesn’t mean I don’t like to have fun at work. I love getting to know my coworkers and finding out which ones have a juvenile sense of humor on par with mine. I just don’t spend so much time playing that I have to stay at the office until 8 p.m. to stay on track. In a business that relies on teamwork, you can’t afford to lag behind.

 

8) Don’t like football; don’t give a crap about the commercials.

There is one thing I love about the Super Bowl, though — going to the grocery store once the game has started. It feels like a scene from Night of the Comet.

Image from the 1984 film “Night of the Comet." Released by Shout! Factory.

 

Looking at my resume, a hiring manager might ask why it doesn’t exhibit a more typical progression. The short answer is that I prefer not to take the traditional path to doing anything. If everyone else is doing it, why would I bother? Well-covered territory presents no opportunity for me to learn or create anything new.

In case you glossed over it, check out that Bill Bernbach quote above. 😉

The universal truth of Beebe Gallini

I grew up watching a lot of television. Many of the shows I watched religiously were Image of a Panasonic/National Flying Saucer television, produced in the late '60s
already in reruns when I was a kid, so they were on every day. (The gang at BeautiControl can attest to my skill at identifying any 1970s or 80s tv show theme song in three seconds or less.)

As an adult, I can look back at a lot of these shows and see things that werent apparent to me at the time. Shows like I Love Lucy, Bewitched, and I Dream of Jeannie helped to shape my impression of a womans role in the world and in the home, and my aspirations as a child.

It didnt matter that I grew up in the era of Womens Lib. Gloria Steinem wasnt in my house. Barbara Eden was.

Photo of Maureen McCormick as Marcia BradyMy absolute favorite show, though, was The Brady Bunch. Yes, it was dorky and cliché, but it was also fun. Come on — what little girl didnt want to be Marcia? She had gorgeous long hair, cute clothes, and boys fighting over her. And yeah, I did have a crush on Peter at one point (pre-perm, of course).

Little did I know that, one day, Id realize there was a glimmer of depth hidden in that formulaic sitcom. That I would identify with one of its characters. And that it wouldnt be Marcia.


I was lucky that, when it came time for me to spin my job into a career, I was working for one of the top three direct marketing agencies in the world (and even luckier that my boss, Nora Reed, saw abilities in me that I couldnt yet see myself, and cared enough to make me look at them). So,when I was first promoted to copywriter, I worked on a pretty sizable account — a gigantic telecommunications company that spent money without batting an eye. I was brand-spanking-new to corporate America, but even I was puzzled by that companys spending habits.

(Years later, after this company burned through its entire employee pension fund, it was acquired by another telecom. Not long after that, both of them vanished in a cloud of IOUs.)

When we had new concepts for a direct-mail package ready to present to their marketing team, four or five of them would fly in from D.C. to review them in person. That alone made me question how financially savvy the company was. I mean, fly in for a tv shoot, maybe. But a statement and insert in a #10 envelope? Who was approving these expense reports?

And every trip, the whole gang stayed at the Four Seasons. I wanted to yell, “Yo, Robin Leach — theres a Courtyard by Marriott right behind our office. You could cut your hotel bill by 2/3 and forego the rental car.” (If Id been their CEO, the company would still exist.)

With most of the details a blur, I have just two distinct memories of what it was like to work on this account. The first is that these people were so disorganized, so schizophrenic about what they wanted, and so shockingly rude, that even after I’d moved on to another job, when their telemarketers called me one evening to “get me to switch” and refused to take “No, thank you” for an answer, all the old frustration returned, and I erupted like Peter’s volcano. I told them I had worked with their company, found them to be rude and irresponsible, and that I refused to ever do business with them.

They hung up. And they never called again, so, mission accomplished.

(Key takeaway: Never forget that everyone
is a potential customer. Even the person
who writes your marketing collateral.)

The other memory is one I’ll never forget, because it was a life lesson I’ve carried with me ever since, and it was pretty hilarious, to boot.

One day, not long after I began to understand the depth of their craziness, it struck me that I was Mike Brady, and this client was . . . Beebe Gallini!

Still from "The Brady Bunch," Season 1, Episode 16.

The Brady episode titled “Mike’s Horror-Scope” was about architect Mike Brady’s (Robert Reed) struggle to please an un-pleasable client. Beebe Gallini (Abbe Lane), a very Zha-Zha-esque cosmetics mogul, hires Mike’s firm to design her new factory. He shows her sketch after sketch, and she dislikes every one.

Mike tries to be practical and employ good design principles, keeping in mind the function of the building. But Beebe, who has no knowledge of factory design, architecture, or application of rationale, simply wants something fun and dazzling.

At one point, she tells Mike she wants her factory to have a flip-top roof that opens like a compact. Or maybe fluffy, she muses, like a powder puff. Then she decides that no, maybe it should be tall, “like a lipstick.”

Photo of Abbe Lane and Robert Reed from "The Brady Bunch," ca. 1970.She runs Mike ragged with her conflicting direction and makes him feel like a failure. If memory serves, I think the episode ends with her crying and storming out, yelling at a very relieved Mike that she will find a different architect.

That episode of The Brady Bunch mirrored reality in a way that no other episode ever did. In 22 minutes, the show painted a perfect portrait of a service-provider/client relationship in which the client thinks he/she knows everything, but is missing crucial information, and the service provider is being driven to the brink of suicide by the client’s nonsensical requests and insults. It foretold the future of hundreds of thousands of Mike Bradys who would one day face their own Beebe Gallinis.

(I suspect the story was inspired by someone’s gut-wrenching encounter with their own Beebe. I would love to know the back story.)

Most lessons taught by The Brady Bunch were pretty standard and obvious: Always tell the truth; wear your glasses when riding a bike; custom engraving is priced by the character; etc. Things you’d be an idiot not to know. But this one stands out as remarkable in both its wisdom and timeless practicality. What it tells us it that, sometimes, it’s best to let the insane rabbit go down the hole alone, and for us to remain above ground with our own sanity intact. 

When I realized all this, it made me feel better about the crazy situation I was in, because I understood that it wasn’t an anomaly. Rather, it was part of the order of the universe (and had been since at least the late ’60s, or whenever the real Beebe tormented someone so badly they would carry the experience in their soul like a demon, until they could exorcise it by incorporating her horrid behavior into the worlds most saccharin family sitcom).


Since that experience, it’s become easier for me to work with the perpetually difficult. I’ve become adept at recognizing Beebe, which has proved to be a solid coping strategy when I’m nearing the point of frustration.

On the rare occasion that it doesn’t help, I put my head in my hands and quietly recite the calming words of the great Oliver Wendell Douglas: “Oh, for the love of. . . . ”

Image of Eddie Albert as Oliver Douglas from the 1960s sitcom, "Green Acres."

Please read this before you name your baby

I have a very boring, common first name. But, thanks to Mom, it has a unique spelling. And it’s been the bain of my existence my entire life.

photo showing personalized license platesWhen I was in grade school, personalized pens, backpacks, and bike license plates were the hot items everyone was bringing to school, and I was completely left out of the fun. (This was back in the dark ages, when the closest thing we had to a computer was a TI-2510. Literally.)

I would look through the racks of keychains, sometimes finding a Lori or a Laurie, but there was no way in hell I was ever going to find Lawri.

I knew that. Yet I was compelled to continue looking, torturing myself, and hoping for a miracle.

True story: When my little brother was about 7 or 8, he went to California to visit our grandparents. As they were doing all the fun tourist stuff and browsing through souvenir shops, he decided he wanted to bring something back for me.

What he chose was a pen from Universal Studios (or maybe it was Movieland Wax Museum?). It was green and white with a sparkly, gold-glitter core, emblazoned with the name PATTI in all caps.

photo of a Universal Studios souvenir mug

Universal Studios must have gotten wind of the Patti pen story. This solves the problem nicely.

It was so sweet of him to think of me (particularly since we mostly beat the crap out of each other when we were together), so I thanked him. But I had to ask him, why Patti? 

“It was the closest thing they had to Lawri,” was his answer. And he was probably right.

When I turned 18, I got a notice from the U.S. government telling me I needed to register for the Selective Service. That still ranks as my number-one, all-time greatest example of misuse of customer data, lack of cross-referencing of customer data, and just plain idiocy. I guess some people do get the connection between Lawrence and Lawri, but don’t stop to think that Lawri is probably actually a girl’s name.

Believe It or Not, I Know How to Spell My Name

Back in the day, if you wanted to get on a store’s mailing list, you had to fill out a form by hand and hand it to a cashier. I’d carefully print my name, making sure not to use my usual printing style, but the more formal, basic style, so there would be no question as to the spelling of my name. Almost invariably, though, the person responsible for keying the information into the database would look at my form and assume either I didn’t know how to spell my own name, or that I had a very strange, W-esque way of writing the letter U, because when I got my catalog, my name would be spelled L-A-U-R-I.

I always wanted to scream, “Hey, data entry person, I really do know how to spell my name, and you see that letter that looks like two Vs stuck together? It isn’t some foreign variation on the letter U. IT’S A W — the letter that comes between V and X in the alphabet!”

It’s should never have surprised me that my name would also be frequently mispronounced. But I’ve never understood why anyone would think a person would be named LOW-ree. Would you pronounce Lawrence as “Lowrance”? Or call Lauren “Lowren?”

And don’t start with the prime rib and seasoning salt. That’s one LOW-ree to how many hundreds of millions of LOR-ees and LAW-rees in the world? There are two hugely popular, viable options for pronouncing my name correctly.
Image of Susan Dey and Shirley Jones in

If you’re not confounded by Julie and July, then this one shouldn’t be puzzling either.

I remember once spelling out my name for someone — L-A-W-R-I — and what the lady wrote down as I spoke was L-A-U-U-R-I (hearing “double u,” instead of “w”).

Seriously?

It’s an annoyance, but I have learned to live with it.

The one thing that actually gets me angry, though, is people assuming I’m legally named Lori or Laurie, and that I changed the spelling of my name willingly, as an expression of my creativity, or to be different. Let it be known from this point forward that I WOULD NEVER, IN A BILLION YEARS, CHOOSE THIS SPELLING FOR MY NAME.

If I were going to change my name — and believe me, I’d have long since done it if I didn’t think the resulting confusion would be equally annoying — I would change it to something spelled normally. Something people could spell and pronounce correctly.

Something I could find printed on a keychain, or a pen in an amusement park souvenir shop.

image of personalized pen with the name (Note: I wouldn’t actually buy a pen like this one, particularly considering there is one grammatical error and one typographical error on the packaging. And I can’t see the back of the package, so who knows what horrors are present there. )

Help me, Richard Branson — you’re my only hope

Image from "The Simpsons" showing the gun-wielding  "rich Texan" character.Living in Texas, I probably don’t have an accurate picture of how Texas is viewed by the rest of the world. But I think it’s safe to say our politicians have hurt our image. If I were to instantly teleport myself to another state (can we pleeeaase stop with the home automation crap and get to work on this one?), I’d wonder what it is about Texas that makes it such a draw for the feeble-minded. That’s the only explanation for having elected the likes of Rick Perry and Ted Cruz.

I know — I said I wasn’t going to get political here, and now I’m breaking my own rule. But this morning, I heard something on the radio that made my blood boil, then had me quickly formulating a plan that involves winning the lottery and hiring Richard Branson to build me a shuttle to another planet.

Photo of Richard Branson in a space helmetTexas Agriculture Commissioner and Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor Todd Staples says he wants to ensure creationism is taught in Texas science classes. (Blood pressure rising . . . )

I don’t have anything against creationism. I was raised Catholic, and went to Catholic school through 8th grade, and we were taught creationism. But we learned about it during religion class. During science class, we learned about the theory of evolution.

The theory of evolution is a scientific theory, whereas creationism is a religious belief. I think religious beliefs can be taught in public schools in the context of a social studies course, where the traditions and beliefs of all the world’s religions, and the conflicts they cause, can be discussed. But not in science class. Religion isn’t science. Science isn’t religion.

Why not teach music theory in a chemistry class? How about studying psychology in a cooking class? Oooh — do they still have health class? If so, that would be the perfect venue for discussing algebra!

The disconnect inherent in talking about religion in a science class is just one of the problems with Mr. Staples’ plan. And it’s not even the biggest. Here are the others:

1. Schools are where children learn what they need to function in society. Home is where parents indoctrinate their children into their chosen religion.

2. If I want my child to hold any religious belief, it’s my privilege as his parent to impart that belief.

3. Taxpayer-supported institutions are not an appropriate venue for preaching or attempted religious conversion. This is why my taxes don’t pay for private schools.

4. If you seriously believe creationism is in any way scientific, you aren’t qualified to be involved in decisions relating to education.

The fact that Staples already holds a public office is an absolute embarrassment. It means people in this state looked at his lack of reason and elected him in spite of it (or worse, because of it). And the creationism-should-be-in-science-books belief is only one of Mr. Staples’ personal beliefs that he feels should be made into law.

I’m really going to try to leave the others off the blog, because I don’t want it to become a magnet for irrational arguments. The problem with all the major topics that set the far right apart from everyone else is that they are irrational beliefs, and you cannot argue with someone who refuses to bring rationalism into either their thinking or the discussion at hand. Religious beliefs aren’t about rational thinking. They are about faith. But when you bring judgment into your beliefs, they cease to be solely about faith, and require logic and supporting arguments. Try to imagine the court system banning the use of logic and supporting arguments during a trial. It would be chaos, and there would be no justice. Yet that’s what happens anytime people try to argue against the theory of evolution, or gay marriage, or semiautomatic weapons bans. It’s all emotion, no reason.

Photo of Rick Perry firing a gun and looking like a dufus.

Photo of Governor Rick Perry by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

(Never mind the fact that creationism and evolution are not mutually exclusive ideas.)

I don’t care for arguments that don’t involve reason. And I don’t care for politicians who don’t employ it. My little nephews show greater capacity for reason and fairness than Mr. Staples and his lot, and the oldest one isn’t even in first grade yet.

I think the time has come for us to vote preschoolers into public office.


I’m not alone!!! Here’s another great blog post about crazy Texas.

Oh, J.R., how I envy you

Photo of actor Larry Hagman as J. R. Ewing from the television show "Dallas."

Larry Hagman as J. R. Ewing, June 1982. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

I haven’t seen the new iteration of Dallas. But I remember enough about the original to know there was one charming DFW trait the show never depicted. If they had, it probably would have involved someone — Cliff Barnes, maybe? — paying someone to run J.R. off the road, or swerve into J.R.’s lane on I-635 as though he wasn’t there. The idea would be to throw J.R. into extreme road-rage mode, causing him to beat the crap out of the driver, thereby getting him arrested (just to piss him off, of course).

For ratings purposes, the incident would’ve had to result in the driver’s death or extreme injury, which could have led to subsequent survivors of real road-rage incidents attempting to sue CBS. Too much mess for too little payoff. And so viewers never got to see that facet of Dallas — the one that has nothing to do with ostentatious cowboy hats, oil fields, or family feuds, but rather the real life-and-death experience that challenges North Texans every day.

Many U.S. cities are notorious for their residents’ maddening lack of driving skills. I’ve lived in and visited a few, and always have the same reaction: If people think this is bad, Dallas/Fort Worth will make their heads explode. The drivers here exhibit behavior I will never understand. Ever.

I’m not just talking about bad driving — sudden lane changes with no turn signal; passing on the shoulder going 90 mph; running red lights — I’m talking about truly bewildering driving.

I’ll give you an example. When a lane is ending, we’re provided plenty of notice. There are signs Image of a typical road sign, warning drivers that the right lane is ending, and they need to merge left.reading, “Land ends, merge left.” Or there’s the graphic-only version. Sometimes both. And, for those of us who live here and drive the same routes to and from work every day, we have the added bonus of knowing where these points exist. Regardless, the drivers here refuse to merge until the last possible second.

Why?

When I learned to drive, I was taught to begin attempting to merge as soon as I became aware that my lane was ending, and the sooner, the better. If you hit the stretch of road where the lane is physically diminishing in width, you’ve gone too far.

I have never personally driven in that “diminishing lane” space, because that stretch of road isn’t meant to be driven on. If you’re in it, only a portion of your vehicle fits, while the rest of it is attempting to occupy space that another vehicle is currently occupying and, well . . . take a physics class.

So I merge ASAP, like my driver’s ed teachers all taught me to. But so many drivers here just looooove to hug that right-hand white line, following it as though it were the freaking yellow-brick road, right to the very last second. If there are cars already in the lane they need to be in, it doesn’t seem to bother them. They just keep on drifting in until the rest of the world comes to a screeching halt to let them complete their bizarre, epic lane change. They seem to be under the impression that they have the right of way, but they don’t.

It’s behavior that defies logic.

Photo showing a road signal sensor

A road signal sensor. Although it’s clearly visible, I’ve added yellow arrows to make it really, really clear. Your car must be on top of it in order to activate it.

The one that really baffles me, though, is how so many North Texas residents don’t seem to know: 1) what a signal sensor is, 2) what one looks like, 3) where it is located, and 4) how to activate it.

People here have a weird habit of stopping waaaaaay before the white line at a signal — I’m talking full car lengths. The only explanation I can come up with is that they haven’t mastered the concept of depth perception, and must think that as soon as you see the white line on the road appear to touch your front bumper, you must actually be on top of it.

Frequently, I’ll pull up to a red light where there’s already a car stopped in the adjacent lane, sitting so far back that, by the time I come to a complete stop, they’re behind me. I always wonder, “What would this person have done if no one else came along to trip the signal for them? Would they keep sitting there, confused as to why the light never turns green?” Then I remember this is Texas, and that the driver would have eventually gotten tired of waiting and simply run the red light. Afraid to stop near the intersection, but fearless to plow through it, even in the face of opposing traffic. It’s logic the writers of Green Acres could have had a field day with.

Image of Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor in "Green Acres."I once witnessed a car waiting at a stop light, not on the sensor. The driver sat for at least five minutes before making a right turn, a sudden U-turn, and another immediate right, thereby crossing the intersection. The craftiness of her solution confirmed my suspicion — she had no idea what a signal sensor is, what one looks like, where it’s located, or what she needed to do in order to activate it.

How did she manage to make it safely to adulthood?

Maybe if the writers of Dallas had included a few typical DFW driving scenarios in the show that ended with the offenders incurring the wrath of J.R., Metroplex drivers would have learned a valuable life skill. We know more people watched “Dallas” than paid attention in driver’s ed. Now that I think of it, radical notions like “drunk driving isn’t smart” and “hitting a person and fleeing the scene is bad” could have probably been more effectively taught through inclusion on popular television shows than through whatever other method they were disseminated.

Larry Hagman managed to live to 81 without being killed by a Dallas driver, which is no small feat. But he’s the lucky one, regardless. He’s dead. I’m still trying to get out of Texas in one piece.

Until then, I’ll comfort myself with daydreams of a world in which tire spikes cover the road where a lane begins to end, and pop-up spikes rise up from beneath the street when someone is about to run a red light or a stop sign. Where vehicle engines stall when a driver gets too close to a squirrel, toad or other living creature.

I’ve got tons of great ideas. Someday, when I’m governor. . . .


UPDATE: March 18, 2014

Just in case you thought I was exaggerating.
http://thescoopblog.dallasnews.com/2014/03/eastbound-lbj-freeway-closed-at-skilllman-backing-up-traffic-past-the-high-five.html/

Photo of all hell breaking loose on I-635 in Dallas

This is really happening right now: March 18, 2014.

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – All of the eastbound lanes of Interstate 635 were at a complete stop Tuesday afternoon as members of the Dallas Police Department and Dallas Fire Rescue worked a major accident near Audelia.

The initial incident involved a vehicle that had flipped over.

The rubbernecking and frustration resulted in two more accidents on 635. There was one crash on the eastbound side near Abrams Road and another on the westbound side, near Forest Lane.

The situation then went from bad to worse when dozens of drivers decided the best course of action was to turn around and try to drive the wrong way on the highway.

Members of Dallas police actually walked out onto the roadway, tapped on windows, instructed drivers to turn around and guided the vehicles around them so as to clear up the very strange bottleneck.