Friday, May 30, 2008

Incompetent Advice: The ABCs of the Email Kiss-Off

Hey Shannon!

I know your snarky sense of humor and your great way of being blunt while being entertaining. I also know you have a lot more experience with men than I do. So I thought you might be interested in tackling a subject in your blog for me -- how to write a good breakup email.

Mine is not your average breakup. I'm the person that the "It's Complicated" relationship status was made for in Facebook. For the past 5 1/2 years, my heart has very stupidly been attached to this one guy, the person who has, most of the time, been my best friend. But this whole time there's been this big back-and-forth thing going on. We don't fight and we've had exactly one relationship discussion. We just smolder.

Fast forward to this weekend, when he apparently slept with [redacted famous person], the [redacted famous occupation – I’m such a tease, huh?]. Not only that, but he texted me in the process of picking her up, and then left a message on Twitter about how he still smelled like her the next day.

We haven't spoken since, so he's aware that he's in the doghouse, most likely. But at some point he's going to write and I'm going to have to send him something saying along the lines of "You apparently just want a bragging buddy, and I need to not be the person that you think so little of that it's okay to rub other women in my face." Except not like that. I've written out a letter, but it's horrible. It's half passive-aggression, half self-loathing and a lot of misery.

So anyway, I thought you might like to do something on breakup mails. And if you even want to gimme the mickey for being the stupid idiot who's stuck around for 5 years, that's fine too. Anyway, I hope you don't mind me spilling all this on you. And if I haven't said so lately, I love your blog. :)

-[Redacted, But Not the Redacted Famous Person with a Redacted Famous Occupation]

I’m always happy to tell people what they should do with their lives. Especially when they call me talented and skanky within the first paragraph. Awesome, thanks! No matter, let’s get on with it.

Wow, this man is tacky. He’s a kiss-and-tell, or, rather, a TMI-and-TMI. You’re well shot of him. But as you seem to know that, and regret this sordid little chapter in your life, so I’m not going to chuck further pearls of wisdom at your head. And I think we’ve all been in similar situations, where we choose to believe in someone despite all evidence of asshatery.

Instead, I’m going to discuss How to Send an Email You Won’t Regret. My “experience” with men dovetails nicely with my history of sending comically regrettable emails. I’m sort of an expert on the email emotion-barf. And why I normally think email breakups of any kind are bad, if your primary relationship with someone is online, then fine.

First Rule: Email is pretty much the worst idea, ever. It can be forwarded, broadcast, and live on forever on the bathroom wall of the Internet. A phone call or snail mail might be better.
Can’t cope with a call? Out of stamps? Absolutely must email?

Fine, Rule 2: Make your point, then stop talking. The more you say, the more ammunition you’re giving him. Keep it simple: this is how I feel, so we shouldn’t talk any more, over and out.

Rule 3: Whatever you do choose to say, leave the email alone for a few days. Don’t send it right away, because Tuesday’s deep statement on life will be Wednesday’s festival of self-pitying wacky emotion-barfing.

Rule 4: When in doubt, employ a ghostwriter. Here’s my suggestion:

“I feel our friendship has run its course. We’ve discussed my feelings for you, and that’s why I’m hurt by your latest actions. I don’t want to speculate why you would tell me about something I clearly would not want to know. I hope you were simply being clueless, and not callous. Either way, please do not contact me again. Do believe I wish you well, however, I just can’t be your friend any more.”

Anyone else have advice, ideas, opinions, ghostwrites, words of encouragement, etc?

If you’d like to be featured in an upcoming Incompetent Advice, in which I solve the problems of people who aren't nearly as messed up as I am, send your questions to

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Wacky Telephone Treats

One of the best things about secretarial work is answering the telephone. This is odd, since I hate to talk on the phone in my personal life. In fact, I go to extraordinary lengths to avoid calling people, and usually wear my friends down with text messages instead. I'm a total guy - I'll call to find out when and where to meet, but chitchat drives me nuts.

But at work, it's fun. It's like busting open a wacky telephonic piñata to see what sort of treats fall out. Usually, it’s people who want me to buy stuff, or they want me to put my boss on the line so he can buy stuff.

Even better are the people who mangle my name. Come on, people, “Shannon” is downright pedestrian (especially when you consider I was raised by hippies who could have named me Moonbeam Rainbow). However, I usually get addressed as Sharon, Janet, or, just a few moments ago, Hannah.

Even better than the name-manglers? Con artists. When I first began receptioneering, the typical con call was to ask the make and model of my printer, followed by an effort to sell me toner re-inkers or swampland in Florida.

Scams have gotten better over the years. Best of all are the people who wish to “verify a listing.”

I spent a week doing battle with the "American Yellow Pages." As an American and frequent user of phones, I can verify that this company does not, strictly speaking, exist. However, this did not stop a very strange woman from calling me repeatedly, asking to “verify my listing.” I patiently did so, despite her very irritating habit of screaming into the phone (I am a bit hard of hearing, and I still had to hold the receiver about a foot from my ear). Then she asked for my credit card information. Yeah, sure, and after that I’ll wake up in a bathtub full of ice, one kidney poorer. I refused, she persisted, I hung up.

Moments later, she had her “supervisor” call and ask to speak to my supervisor regarding my poor manners. I suppose this was a great intimidation tactic, except that my “supervisor” was just me, with a very bad phony French accent. "Bonjour, Yeeellow Pages Americain!" French Me “fired” the Zee Real Me forthwith. It was the most fun I've had at work while sober.

So, in case you were wondering exactly what your secretary does all day, the answer is: talk to really annoying people so you don’t have to. Yeah, you’re welcome.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Gather 'Round the 'Ol Icky-Stick!

My weekend was shockingly reproduction-centric.

I went to a barbecue Sunday, where I spent several minutes convinced that I had broken my friend's baby. As it turns out, she had NOT bopped her head into the patio, rather, she was having a tantrum because I had denied her the pleasure of bopping her head into the patio. I also tried to figure out what the various kids there were saying to me, as I could only make out about every third word. (Note to self: get hearing checked, as children under 10 usually sound like they’re conversing in Swedish).

Then yesterday I went to a baby shower, where I had to run a four-hour gantlet of foofy girly talk and not die of estrogen poisoning. I left with the wild urge to drown myself in steak, beer, and six hours of Grand Theft Auto. Instead, I topped off my rugrat weekend by watching Juno.

Once you get past the achingly, self-consciously hip hamburger phones, orange Tic-Tacs and "home skillet" nonsense, it's a pretty good movie. I can't figure out why Diablo Cody thought she needed so much of the quirky stuff, because it detracted from a very interesting story with well-drawn characters. Mostly, though, Juno is a springboard for what I'd really like to ask about today:

Can someone please tell me why people on TV and the movies wave pregnancy tests around, touch them, and hand them off to people?

Off the top of my head, there are pass-around-the-pee-stick scenes in Juno, Knocked Up, Friends, 90210, Waitress, and Will and Grace. I'm sure I could come up with a dozen more if I tried. It's unbelievably gross, and here's why:

Unless you have a precise, Annie Oakley-style urine stream, I imagine some splashing is inevitable. What these people are handing off like a relay baton or water pipe is, in the real world, sprinkled quite liberally with pee. Would anyone in real life really want to touch someone else's used pregnancy test? No! And I can raise that to, "Hell no." Yuck.

So, screenwriters, can we all please declare a moratorium on pregnancy test scenes where characters gather ‘round to manhandle the icky-stick?

PS - This is the last kid, baby, pregnancy, etc./whatever post for a while. Also, how bad is it that I spent 10 minutes trying to work in the phrase, “I want some frickin’ pregnancy tests with frickin' laser beams on their foreheads!”?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

D.C. Dating Sucks? Only if You Do!

The only thing worse than dating in DC is listening to people complain about dating in DC. Getting trapped inside someone else’s dating rant is a recurring nightmare of mine, on a par with showing up to school naked for a pop final exam I didn’t study for that happens to be in Cantonese with Cyrillic characters and a background soundtrack of pop country and coffeeshop spoken word, all performed by Gilbert Gottfried.

Here is a synopsis of the date complaints I’ve heard over the years:

All men in DC are boring boorish egomaniac workaholics with no manners who think they’re players and treat women like dirt. They talk big but don’t follow up, don’t want to commit, and all the good ones are married or gay.

All women in DC are boring unfeminine hags who watch too much Sex and the City and aren’t nearly as funny or smart as they think they are. They talk endlessly about their stupid jobs, they see every date as spouse shopping, they can’t dress themselves, and they’re too materialistic and shallow.

I am aware that dating is a bit of a grind. From time to time, I have been known to go on dates. Sometimes these dates are bad enough for a good story, but more often they’re just OK. And sometimes they really work out. By no means am I a dating expert. But as a lack of expertise has never stopped me from mouthing off, here we go:

Shannon’s Law of Dating: The moment you say, “All (blank) in (blank) are (blank),” it’s over. Pull the plug. Leave town. Get a mail order spouse. Take up macramé. Whatever. Just. Stop. Dating. At least for a while.

Once you say “All (Blank) in (Blank) Are (Blank),” you’ve given up. You’ve externalized your internal problems. You’re aren’t the victim – the dating scene of D.C. is. And all because you’ve started to make some crucial mistakes:

Mistake #1: You’ve started to see your romantic quarry as the enemy, something to be dominated, controlled, and one-upped. This is why I see a lot of Pickup Artist stuff as counterproductive, as it’s all about one-upsmanship and power games. This is also why I cringe every time I see a commercial that depicts men as too stupid to perform basic household tasks, or a Cosmo article about how to trick a man into loving you. Could we all please remember we’re human first, and gender second?

Mistake #2: You see your city as the problem. Sometimes people move to new cities, and start getting more dates. That’s not about the city, because wherever you go, there you are. It’s because a fresh start has given you a more positive outlook, and being new to town has made you more open to meeting new people.

Mistake #3: It’s a cliché, but the definition of dating insanity is doing the exact same thing over and over and expecting different results. If you go out every weekend to the same three bars with the same three people, and you’re bored with everyone you meet, try something else. Duh.

Mistake #4: You’ve made too big a deal of things. Let’s say you meet someone who is practically perfect in every way. You run off and get married and it’s lovely. Well, your happily ever after is still going to include your friends, your family, your job, your favorite movies, your daily fun-size Snickers, your magazine subscriptions, your gym membership, your great-aunt’s cookie recipe, and your car payment. One person can only change your life so much, so spread your focus a little. Relieve some of that pressure before you get bitter.

Mistake #5: You’re changing who you are so you can be more appealing. Generally speaking, I prefer to be myself and let the chips fall where they may. If you think you need to be a flirty girly type or a “cocky and funny” guy, and start acting in a way contrary to your nature, it’s going to come across as weird and creepy. Weird and creepy? Not hot. Plus, the effort of keeping up the charade is going to exhaust you before the third date. (Depending on who you ask, I’m an abrasive unfunny preachy feminist buzzkill or a big-hearted sarcastic goofball with a reliable moral compass. Neither one really bags the boys, but whatever. I’d rather be attractive to one good man than a hundred so-so ones.)

Mistake #6: You aren’t clear about what you want. “I slept with this guy, which to me means we’re exclusive, but I found out he’s seeing other people!” Well, did you explain what your values were before hopping into bed? “I keep telling this woman I don’t want a relationship, but when I see her three times a week she acts like she’s my girlfriend.” Duh, if you’re asking her out that often, you’re saying one thing and doing another. No wonder she’s clueless. So, every step of the way, say what you want, then follow that up with a corresponding action.

Mistake #7: Your standards and your expectations are out of whack. I'm not saying "Settle for the first clod who will take you," or, "You're really great so be picky!" Just understand that the higher/more specific your standards are, the longer it will take to find someone who meets those standards. In fact, you may never meet that "right" person, and that's OK too. So adjust your timeline expectations accordingly. (Caveat: Don't hold potential partners to a standard you yourself cannot meet. Must be athletic? Must be successful? Only if you are, too.)

Daters of D.C., I still love you. This is a little bit of tough love, and I hope it’s taken in the spirit it was intended. And that spirit is: the problem isn’t the town, the problem is not the people you meet, the problem is you.

Fixing yourself won’t guarantee you’ll get what you want. But if you’re comfortable in your own skin, the hiccups of dating won’t matter so much.
Any questions?

PS: I’m aware it’s a bit hypocritical to complain about complaining, but kindly just go with it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Kindergartener Bjorn?

I know I make fun of people with kids. A lot. And I write a lot of posts about SmartCar-sized strollers, school-age children in strollers with their ankles dragging along the ground, crazy yuppies who name their kids silly things, and people who try to be hipsters after the second trimester. So I was trying to move away from all that and be nice, on the off chance I have kids someday and my readers chase me around Washington with printouts of my blog.

I was laying off the kid stuff. Until yesterday. I was headed home from the grocery store when I saw a family walking up to my apartment complex from the parking lot. Mom, Dad, Grandma, and 5- or 6-year-old daughter. From the daughter's tutu, I guessed they were on their way home from a ballet recital. Everybody looked happy and wholesome.

There was just one thing wrong: the daughter was being transported in a Baby Bjorn. She was hoisted into a contraption designed for infants, and strapped to her dad's belly. She stretched across him from neck to knees. The kicker? She'd been strapped in for a trip of less than a block.

People, if your child is old enough to take ballet, and too big to fit in a stroller, and is larger than your torso, there is just no excuse for digging out the Baby Bjorn. It's just undignified.

In the comments, please please please tell me a logical reason why someone would transport a school-age child in a Baby Bjorn.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Baby Shower Games of the Damned

I’m attending a close friend’s baby shower on Monday. Moreover, I’m on the Game Committee.

You know, if I didn't like my friend, and was an envious and passive-aggressive hag, I could really have a great time with this. I could pick out some really, really awful games. There are so many to choose from! (The problem is that then, I would have to play these myself - so, Mom-to-Be, no reason to panic just yet.)

Anyhow, in order from mildly insulting to all-out godawful, here are the top five Shower Games of the Damned from

5. "Pin the Diaper on the Baby Boy"

This is a gag game, so make sure mom-to-be is in a mood to be messed with before attempting. Ask the mother-to-be (or daddy-to-be or anyone else you'd like to play a joke on) to go first. After putting on the blindfold, have someone sneak up on mom and spray her with a small water gun, to prepare her for the "surprises" we get when changing a baby boy's diaper!

Translation: This is a gag game in which urine and public humiliation are HILARIOUS.

4. "My Water Broke"

Give each guest a water balloon, and have them place the balloon between their knees. Pair guests into teams if desired. Have the guests run or walk without dropping their water balloon. Once a balloon is dropped, that player/team is out of the game.

Translation: I can think of nothing I’d rather do in a sundress and heels than run around the backyard, making sweet love to a water balloon in front of two dozen strangers.

3. "Be the Baby"

Choose one guest, usually the father-to-be, to be the baby. Have guests take turns performing actions such as dressing/feeding/burping the baby.

Translation: Wow, who can pass up such a golden opportunity to manhandle your friend’s husband?

2. "Name that Poop"

Fill baby diapers (real or made from napkins/paper) with things like crushed candy bars, rocky road ice cream, mustard, chocolate cake, etc. Have guests determine what each "poop" is.

Translation: Oh, wow, this is just too disgusting for words. OK, we all know that many new parents become dull people who talk about nothing but their babies and the texture of their poop…do we really need to suffer through all that BEFORE the baby even arrives?

1. "Teddy Bear Kiss"

Pass a teddy bear, or baby doll, around the room and have each guest kiss the bear. After everyone has kissed the bear, have them kiss the mom to be in the exact same spot they kissed the bear.

Translation: And here we have it, folks, the Most Appalling Baby Shower Game Known to Man. Or woman. Or little green Martians. This game is, basically, a lesbian gang rape of a pregnant woman. Which is illegal in all 50 states, but I am sure is a popular sub-genre in the porno universe.

Or we could just do a word jumble and get on with our lives.

In the comments section, tell me the most appalling thing you ever saw at a shower, or take a moment to thank sweet baby Jesus that you’re a man and you can skip these things.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Grad Speech '08: Live With Knuckleheads

There are rows of chairs and school banners on the Mall, a flurry of grandmas and country cousins at D.C.'s elegant restaurants, and an influx of Abercrombie in offices across the city. It must be grad season again. Originally, I thought I might be lazy and refer you to my graduation manifesto from last year.

But then I realized something. I graduated from Carolina exactly ten years ago. What does that make me, besides a dried-up bitter old hag? It makes me weepy and nostalgic.

Ten years ago this week, I wandered the grounds of Kenan Stadium looking for friends to sit with. Instead, I ran into Ben, who was once a member of my anthropology group project, "Cherokee Methods for the Prevention of Inbreeding." He invited me to sit with his friends. They turned out to be Kallisti, the campus pagan society. I spent what was supposed to be a big happy me-me-me moment of my life watching pagans cast spells in an attempt to accelerate the endless drone of Marian Wright Edelman, who offered a family-friendly inspirational speech about a woman who had nothing to feed her baby besides ketchup and water. (Now, I do have compassion for babies who eat nothing but ketchup...but, as my mom put it, "Wow, bummer." Who wants that for a grad speech?)

The day I graduated, I moved into a townhouse in Raleigh with two roommates. One swore she was straight, despite all the evidence to the contrary (including, a, ahem, girlfriend). The other couldn't decide whether to ditch her boyfriend, Wayne, for his identical twin, Dwayne. She also sold my jewelry to buy pot.

My childhood home in Woodbridge had been sold years before. My parents had split up, my mom went back to Australia, and my dad had moved into a camper by the creek. To this day, I am convinced they did all this just so I couldn't move in with them (wily, aren't they?). So my only choice was to muddle along on my own. Sometimes you have to learn stuff the hard way. I moved into a cheap basement apartment with a beer-can shower and never looked back.

So my advice this year: Get out there and see how much life can suck! Don't play it safe, don't move back to the nest. Meet some pagans, promiscuous knuckleheads and assorted weirdos. Build a coffee table out of ramen crates. Embrace the next stage. Be a grownup. In the journey to adulthood, the milestones matter a whole lot less than the daily details.

In closing, here are some "daily detail" moments when you know you've become a full adult, contributing member of society, and all-around cool dude:

1. When you tell your parents about all the stupid stuff you did in high school, and you find out they knew all along.
2. When you give up your seat on the Metro to that Starbucks barista who was probably on her feet all day.
3. When all the bills get paid on time.
4. When you realize you don't need half the stuff you own.
5. When you go to dinner with family, and you pick up the check.
6. When you value your life for what it is, and learn the value of contentment, but continue to reach for big dreams.
7. When you admit that restaurant is out of your budget, instead of going along and seething. In fact, when you learn to speak up for yourself in general, instead of seething.
8. When you learn to negotiate salaries, prices, and whose turn it is to wash the dishes.
9. When you hate your job, but resign with dignity instead of stomping out like a preteen ninny.
10. When you love your job, but realize it's only a small part of your life.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday's Story: Hitchhike to Hoodbridge

Last Sunday’s debacle reminds me of another Concert from Hell story.

The scene: 1993. Grunge was king. Beverly Hills, 90210 was the voice of a generation. Only Zack Morris had a cellphone. MTV showed videos. And I was a dorky 16-year-old from the outer circle of Suburban Hell. I was also a lucky dork, with a field ticket to the HFStival at RFK.

We came in two cars. I got separated from the group when some random frat guys thought my small stature would make me awesome at crowdsurfing. And I was. Boy howdy, I’m good. I got hoisted in the air, and stayed aloft for much of the INXS set. I was gone for a long time.

Meanwhile, everybody thought I was riding home with someone else (how very Home Alone, a popular film of the era).

At the end of the show, I returned to where the car was parked, but there was no car. At this point, my options were, 1. Call home, get killed by parents. 2. Get killed by scary city people, who I am sure all had crack pipes and guns, or possibly crack pipes made from guns. 3. Burst into hysterics, die of shame. Every option said, “Die.”

A group of middle-aged folks were tailgating a few spaces over.

“Hey, kid, you lost?”
“Yeah, I don’t know what to do.”
“Can you take the Metro?”
“No, I’m from Woodbridge.”
“Hey, we’re from Woodbridge! What school do you go to?”

…to make a boring story short, and therefore a little less boring, I had run into a van full of the assorted relatives and parents of my classmates. And they were getting drunk in a parking lot in a then-sketchy part of D.C. Stay classy, Prince William! They offered me a lift home. I took it.

So we’re bombing down the freeway, I’m riding shotgun, there’s a 40-year-old toking up in the back row (at the time I thought it was just a funny-smelling cigarette), and the party rages on. Until, BOOM. Tire blowout on I-95. We skid across the freeway, and come to rest on the shoulder. The driver jumps out of the car to change the tire, I’m in charge of holding the flashlight.

Blue lights. A police officer pulls up to check on us. As it turns out, the driver doesn’t have his license on him. The officer says we can’t leave until we find someone else to drive the car. I have a learner’s permit, so I get chucked into the driver’s seat. The drunks in the back resume their mashup chorus of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” and “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” the designated driver hops into the shotgun position, and I haul myself home across a dark highway late at night. (Well, late for me, considering my curfew was 10:30…the rest of the van was just getting warmed up.)

So what did we learn today? It’s possible to be really stupid without getting busted by your parents (until now…hi, Dad!). I am less cool than the sort of people who still go to all-day rock festivals and toke up in vans well into middle age. I’m good at crowdsurfing. Most importantly, if you get stranded in a strange city, hang out in a dark parking lot until a bunch of strangers offer you a ride home.

That’s one to grow on, and knowing is half the battle.

Postscript: My dad called after I posted this to inform me that he'd spotted me crowdsurfing on the local news on the day of the concert (he even used the phrase "mosh pit"). He thought it best to never mention this to my mom, who, fortunately, does not read this blog.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Important Lessons from Last Weekend

By now, we all know that Nissan Pavilion sucks. So let's talk about the other things I learned last weekend, all of which involve ideas so terrible that I just had to be a part of them:

  • I have very amusing friends (NSFW)

  • When fellow partygoers go outside for a smoke break, sometimes they don't mean the porch. Sometimes, they mean the roof. Of a large apartment complex.

  • Sometimes, getting to that roof will involve climbing through a small window.

  • If the window is too high, sometimes your friends will hoist you by your elbows. This will cause hideous damage to your knees.

  • Standing on a roof in a rainstorm will get you wet.

  • If you sit down in a puddle, you'll get wetter.

  • Jeans don't dry out, instead, they get more and more damp, and that dampness will cling to your butt like a soggy barnacle.

  • Never combine a 22-year-old's birthday party with open flame of any kind.

Anyone else learn anything good?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dude, Is She STILL Blogging About Nissan Pavilion?

Yeah, but this time is different: I'm proposing a solution. Clearly, offering fans who missed the show crappy lawn tickets to a venue hours away (on a weeknight!) just isn't good enough. Refunds do not seem to be forthcoming. And maybe no solution will mollify everyone. But I'm going to try. So here's my idea:

Contact everyone involved in the planning of this debacle: Radiohead, their management, Live Nation, Nissan Pavilion's staff, etc. (henceforth known as "the Debacleers"). Instruct them to drive out to a field in the middle of nowhere, accessible only by poky country roads, in heavy traffic. Before they go, they'll be told this venue was chosen because it is "green," despite the fact that it's only accessible by cars that will idle for hours on end.

Once they (eventually) arrive, they'll be chased into a small area by all the ticketholders from Sunday's show. Half the ticketholders will repeatedly dunk buckets of freezing cold water onto them, and the other half will chase them about with industrial-size fans. If anyone tries to escape, they will run into a phalanx of guys wielding batons, who will steer them in circles for hours on end.

Afterwards, we'll collect $50+ from each and every one of the Debacleers, and explain the event was billed as "rain or shine" and therefore no refunds should be expected.

Could this work? If you were there Sunday, would this make you feel better? If not, what would you do?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Still Mad About Radiohead, But Now a Little More Coherent

I was pretty ticked off yesterday, huh? A bit nutty, even. Well, very little sleep, a traffic disaster, and hours of exposure to the elements will do that. So, today, I'll offer a more coherent version of why Sunday was such a mess:

1. Radiohead has promoted this tour as "green" and Earth-friendly...but Nissan Pavilion is miles from nowhere, has ALWAYS had a reputation for horrendous traffic, and is nowhere near transit. Even without the weather, thousands of cars were going to idle for hours on end. Pretty hypocritical, if you ask me. I've lost a lot of respect for this band.

2. I'm sick of people who say concertgoers should have "been more prepared for the weather." It wasn't just a little bit of bad weather or a steady rain. It was raining sideways, water was rushing all over the place, roads were flooded out, winds were high and temperatures were dropping rapidly. I am surprised people were not hospitalized for exposure. I was in the middle of the pavilion, had on full gear (and when I say full gear, I was outfitted for an Arctic exploration/monsoon) and still got soaked and frozen. I did see a few people in inappropriate clothes, but by and large people were bundled up and wearing rain gear. It just didn't matter.

3. Conditions were far too hazardous to hold an outdoor concert. People should have been in their homes, not on the slippery roads full of black water, and definitely not in the flooded Pavilion area. Nobody is accusing Live Nation of controlling the weather, they aren't responsible for the storm itself. But flood warnings were in effect before the gates even opened. Live Nation is responsible for recklessly endangering the health and safety of concertgoers by not cancelling or postponing the show. If people pay through the nose in lean times for their tickets, and they know they won't get their money back, they're going to go to the show regardless of the weather. Live Nation should have taken the choice out of people's hands.

There is no way this show should have gone on...and it did. And somebody needs to tell us why.

4. The pavilion was half full. The lawn was almost empty. When it became apparent that guests were being turned away at the gate due to flooding (around 10:00), they should have started letting lawn people into the pavilion so they wouldn't freeze. I'm guessing the teenyboppers running the parking lot didn't have any way of communicating with the pavilion teenyboppers.

5. Nobody deserves to spend two hours plus just to get out of the parking lot, then be routed all over hell and creation before they could get back on the freeway. People were already tired from being out in the elements, driving conditions were hazardous and bad weather plus tired people is a recipe for accidents.

6. Some people never even got into the show, instead, they circled the venue for hours with zero information, only to get turned away at the gate. Would it have been so hard to get a guy with a bullhorn? Or go car-to-car telling people what was happening? And still no word from Live Nation as to whether those people will get their money back. (My bet? Live Nation is going to keep the money and claim they have a "rain or shine" policy. From their press release, "While we have no control over Mother Nature, we certainly are disappointed that some fans did not make it to the venue." See Item #3 for why that excuse doesn't, ahem, hold water.)

So, anyways, this isn't a minor inconvenience that people are whining about. This was a dangerous weather situation compounded by hypocrisy on the part of Radiohead and their management, and general incompetence and greed on the part of Live Nation/Nissan Pavilion. What a mess.

In the comments section, finish the following sentence: "I would never ever go to Nissan Pavilion, even if..."

Monday, May 12, 2008

Radiohead Owes Me a Nubrella

Radiohead owes me a Nubrella, an apology, and a promise to never, ever again let their woolly-headed idiot beliefs lead them to play in a field in the middle of nowhere. Yes, it's time for a Monday morning rant. And I'm slamming Radiohead, Nissan Pavilion, and stupid drunk chicks.

OK, Nissan Pavilion isn't a field. It's a pavilion, and a field. And the phrase "middle of nowhere" would actually be a generous description of how way the hell out there this venue is. But after enduring the 2001 unholy disaster of a cancelled show at Bull Run (which included floating Port-a-Johns) with this guy, I was entitled to a little bit less of a mess.

Instead, I got more of a mess. It took us more than 2.5 hours to get from my place in DC to Nissan...the last hour of which was spent going less than a mile. Then Tim and I parked, got out of the car, and slogged confusedly through the rain and mud for almost 30 minutes before we could get into our seats, because nobody appeared to actually be telling anyone where to go. Instead, employees stood around, looking soggy, and glared at anyone who dared ask a question.

Within minutes of finding our seats, the show started. It was awesome. Well, except for the obnoxiously loud women in front of us who talked through the entire first half of the show (when they weren't off buying even more beer). If I wanted to listen to annoying outer burb drunk chicks scream on about nothing, I'd hang out in Adams Morgan. Ladies, if you're not here for the music, save yourselves the cash and have this conversation over some Mega-Ritas at the Chantilly Ruby Tuesday's. And if I can hear you through my earplugs, and over the music, you're just too loud. Me being me, the Guided Missile of Buzzkill, I told them to shut up. They did. It was awesome. I rule.

We decided to beat the traffic by slipping out during the encore (anyone who has been to Nissan is already laughing at me). We found Tim's car...and proceeded to sit in the car for the two hours it took to even get out of the parking lot. Because there is no system of any kind for parking, exiting, or even labeling the various lots so you can remember where you left your stupid car, we spent most of those two hours watching crying teenagers desperately hunt for their vehicles. Plus, some dude aimlessly wandered around for an hour, hoping his keyless entry would beep, and perhaps we even saw a flying cow.

Eventually, we got out of the parking lot, and dudes with batons sent us all the way to the other side of Prince William before we could even get back on the freeway. Arrival time at my apartment? 2:00 am! Jerks. So, out of an eight-hour outing, less than two hours was spent actually listening to the band.

I'm sure I know what you're all thinking:

1. You had Radiohead tickets! I tried like hell to get tickets. How dare you complain?
Simple. I had tickets to a show, I did not have tickets to a six-hour travel ordeal.

2. Radiohead does not control the weather. And all that chaos is the venue's fault. Why so harsh?
No, they don't control the weather. But they do have a say in where they perform.

Their tour website gets all preachy and encourages people to carpool or take public transit to a show so they can be "green"....but the venue is out in the middle of nowhere, with all those thousands of cars idling for hours on end, with traffic so bad that the Metro was closed before many people even got out of the parking lot? Unforgivably stupid, a smack in the face of Mother Earth, hypocritical, and dense.

Next time, Radiohead, play Verizon like civilized people. Folks can take public transit, crowd control is handled by people who are not drunken monkeys or insolent teenagers, and did I mention people can take mass transit?

3. Radiohead shows are always a disorganized mess. Always. Get over it.
You're right. I've been to three Radiohead shows, and the one that wasn't a mess was all the way back in 1993 or so, when they opened for Belly. And you're right, I'm over it. Because I'm never going to see those clowns again.

4. Radiohead doesn't control drunk chicks. And they're just being enthusiastic! Most people at shows are so lame. Why ruin their good time?
Nope, they don't have any say over their suckier fans. But if you're going to drown out the band that people paid to see, you deserve a good telling off. Your fun is no more important than anyone else's.

Radiohead, we're through. Never again. It's not me, it's you, your idiotically organized shows, and your woolly-headed "green" stupidity. I'll content myself with the music, listened to from the comfort of my own home.

PS - I love me a good misinformed musician political rant, but when you said you'd like everyone in Capitol Hill in court, I assume you meant the White House. Which is downtown. Idiots.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Everybody Blogs About the Weather...

...but nobody ever does anything about it.

I am, in the phraseology of Charles Dickens, an "eminently practical" woman. But today, a day in which I practically had to swim through the rain to get to work, your favorite Pocket Blogger:

1. Wore my hair down, thereby causing some sort of psychotic break in which my hair believes it belongs to Gidget-era Sally Field (there are schwoopy flippy ski-jump bits),

2. Wore jeans, patent leather shoes, and a leather jacket, all of which take on unholy amounts of water, and;

3. Left the fabulous houndstooth Wellies at home.

But, enough about me. Let's talk about people who annoy me. People with no sense of umbrella-quette. Please note that the standard umbrella is effectively an oversize, nylon ninja throwing star with pointy bits on all sides. That means you need to allow extra sidewalk space so you do not impale others in the eyeball.

Also, Lady at Au Bon Pain This Morning, this is not your personal rainstorm. It's not some little cartoon cloud, following you around like Pigpen's dirt cloud. Ergo, you are not the only person getting rained on. So do not walk into a cafe, stop just inside the door, and shake out and fiddle with your umbrella for several minutes. See that waterlogged short chick behind you? She's already closed her umbrella, and is standing there in the rain while you get everything just so. Move inside already like a civilized person.

Wow, I'm cranky today. Anybody else got a rainy-day gripe to share?
PS: The photo above is of the Nubrella, specially designed so people can use their Blackberries in the rain. I love the woman, who looks all sexy despite the fact she's wearing a bubble on her, that amount of makeup would just slide off on a day like today.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Alcohol Makes You Smarter and More Perceptive!

Frequent commenter Lemmonex, who shares my tragic love for redneck cuisine, recently said, “Gotta love the guys in bars who think they have you figured out. I once went on a date with a guy who said I had 'an obvious need to rebel.' When I asked him why he said that, it was because of my nose stud and dark grey nail polish. Man, he saw in to my SOUL.”

This got me thinking. Why does alcohol make some guys so darn perceptive? Over the years, I’ve had random drunk dudes tell me I’m a “force of nature,” I’m “unlikely to ever marry,” and that I have “obvious daddy issues.” Is a sixer of MGD a valid psychiatric credential?

I can’t figure out if it’s some sort of accelerated pickup technique, in which a lady is mocked and intruded upon until she spontaneously removes her underpants. Or it’s an unintentional lack of manners: as inhibitions get fuzzed with booze, guys start crossing lines and telling girls who they are.

Or, possibly, booze depresses testosterone production. I’ve never seen sober guys sit around psychoanalyzing and nitpicking the personalities of others, that’s mostly a girl thing. But some drunk guys will indulge in more unrepentant pop-psych than an eighth-grade mean girl.

Conclusion: Booze turns dudes into chicks. Tweener chicks.

In the comments section, tell me about that time you got pop-psyched in a bar. Or advance a cockamamie theory of your very own.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

New Imaginary Friends

I've made two new imaginary friends, and they've joined the blogroll party to the right.

So go check out Darian the Vicenarian to learn about the Skittles color wheel, the "Girls at the Club," kids for breakfast, and other observations from a NoVa guy in his 20s.

And, while you're at it, learn about ED as "ethical sub-routine," the joy of cougars, and Facebook as pickup over at The New Form of Bachelor. I don't want to laugh, but...whatever, I want to laugh, it's funny. Enjoy.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Yo-Ho-Ho and a Bottle of Dumb

Sometimes, I miss Sarajevo. I miss having a functioning vocabulary of six words ("tomato," "beer," "half," "pleasure," "embassy," and "sh***y"). I miss not having the slightest clue as to what is happening or why.

Sunday, I relived the Bosnia magic by going sailing with Tim and his dad. It was worth it for the lingo alone. I swiped the Rigging Checklist Rainbow (no relation to Reading Rainbow) for your enjoyment. It's like the IRS wrote it, with the assistance of drunken NSA codebreaker monkeys:

One anchor and rode in lazarette
Lead outhaul back through grommet in clew of sail
Uncleat and clear main halyard
Locate luff wire or rope sewn in front edge of jib

Whuh? So, while they put the boat together, I went off in search of a life jacket that wouldn't suffocate me. When you're about the size of a hiking boot, an "adult universal" life jacket feels like a full-body condom. No luck with finding a smaller jacket, but the captain guy was nice enough to apologize before he asked for my weight and age (he prefaced the whole thing by saying he normally knew better than to ask those things of a lady...uh, I'm no lady).

Fortunately, the guys had put the boat together (my scientific term) and pretty much had things under control. Once we got out on the water, my job consisted of:

Handing people things
Staying out of the way
Not pitching myself overboard
Not barfing

That last part was tricky. I've been known to get motion sickness just walking down the street. I take Dramamine like most people take vitamins. Most of my childhood family vacation memories involve roadside sagebrush, my mom holding my hair, and full-on heaving. In short, I don't travel well.

So I chose to focus on a horizon point: something on land, that wasn't moving, to allow my inner ear to adjust. Unfortunately, most of the "white houses" I chose to focus on, were, in fact, abnormally large boats. They were moving, I was moving, my breakfast was ready to move as well.

But it was OK. In fact, it was really fun. I should take this sailing thing more seriously. It's an excuse, after all, to try out a new look. Should I go pirate wench, and spend my weekends wearing corsets and forcibly boarding the yachts of Annapolis? Or should I wear cute little Sailor Moon getups like an anime freak? Or maybe I should wear yuppie Nautica clothes with anchors on them.

In the comments, tell me whether you'd rather be a pirate, an anime character, or a yuppie. Or tell me about a time you almost threw up, preferably in the presence of your significant other and at least one parental unit.

Friday, May 02, 2008

The Results Are In: Who Has It Worse?

Yesterday's post set off a veritable comment firestorm of gender complaints, a few defections (I'm lookin' at you, Jo, and your orgasm-related sellouts of the girl squad), and the introduction of my new favorite phrase, "underwear monkey." But none of you care about that. You'd like for me to get to the point before your lunch break ends.

So, here the results:

Men have a grand total of 395 life suckitude points. (I Have Thoughts, men dying earlier than women wound up as 80 points, plus 5 for your charming use of math, my least favorite subject.)

As for the Side of Gyn, we came in with a whopping 440 points! And, lest anyone claims the deck was stacked in any way...this was without anyone even MENTIONING or awarding points for labor pains.

So, ladies, we have it worse. It's been quantified, settled, determined once and for all. Awesome.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

A Gender-riffic Pity Party

This has been quite a week for gender relations here in the blogosphere, with the latest volley courtesy of the sweet and awesome KassyK.

To get all Sex and the City on you, I couldn't help but wonder...who has it worse, men or women? Let's find out by having a gender-centric pity party/social experiment!

I need your help. I need you to add, in the comments section, ways in which men have it worse than women, and women have it worse than men. Then I'll assign point totals as objectively as possible (I am, after all, an unreasonable, irrational, and squishy-brained woman).

We'll total it all up, and the gender with the most points is the Queen (or King) of the Pity Prom. Points are assigned based on relative onerousness of the gender burden, recency (I care more about current divorce inequities than the hazards of 19th century coal mines), and other important factors I'm sure I'll think of later.

Here are a few to start us off:

Menstruation, 50 points for women.

Prostate Exams, 10 points for the men.

The Taliban, 25 points for women.

Preference for mothers in custody hearings, 30 points for the men.

The Ground Rules:

This being the Internet, you may grab virtually any statistic via Google, and use it to back whatever spurious claim comes to mind. Citing statistics, no matter how tangential, gets you an extra 5 points.

Commenters may not personally insult one another. However, this being the Internet, general insanity is welcome. And debate? Go for it.

Gender traitorism welcome and encouraged - women, sell out your team by claiming childbirth isn't so bad after all, men, come on, go ahead and say you're more likely to be imprisoned due to your own foolishness.

Here I am, saving the world and answering deep questions. Awesome. Voting closes at NOON FRIDAY.

Have at it, gang.


Who are you?

I'm Shannon, I'm 33 years old, and I live in D.C. My sister and I form a two-person ethnic group, the Austrokees. I was born in Australia and grew up in assorted sections of America. I got most of my schooling in the redneck gangsta paradise of Woodbridge, Virginia, where I was a hot sauce salesgirl.

Perhaps the best description of me came from a recovering alcoholic/bipolar guy who tried to pick me up in a bar: "You're cute. But you're a force of nature and have a 50/50 chance of winding up in rehab."

Spot on, dude.

Anything I should know about commenting?

I love my commenters! They're the best part of having a blog, and I respond to as many comments as I possibly can.

I have a few ground rules: You are welcome to disagree with me, you are welcome to offer criticism, you can debate with other posters. You can even hit on me, be insane, or act a little bit creepy. However, you can't trade in personal insults and hostilities, you cannot assert that people who disagree with you are dumb and/or ignorant, and you really, really can't be rude to other commenters. Not in my house.

Also, as many of my commenters are fellow bloggers: Please don't pimp your blogs in the comment thread. If you wrote on a related topic, feel free to post a link. Straight-out directing people to your site is gauche, and it's not the way to build a readership. That comes from finding your voice, which takes time, talent and discipline.

When and why did you start blogging?

I started this site in December of 2002. I used to send snarky reviews of 7th Heaven to my sister, she used to send them to her friends, and somehow this site was born. Phase Two was a blow-by-blow account of my existence as a diplomat's wife, and my audience was made up mostly of the Foreign Service community, plus some lumberyard spammers.

Phase 3 began in 2006 and has been mostly social commentary, sarcasm and humor. I figure nobody cares about my innermost feelings, heck, I don't even care about my innermost feelings. We'd all much rather hear me riff about that time a bird pooped on my head.

What's a scanner jockey?

My first job when I came home from Sarajevo was as a temp file clerk at a government agency. I put documents through a scanner all day, followed by some hole punching.

I'm your friend. Hey....was that post about me?

Probably not. Sorry. I write a lot about social interactions, entertaining, and modern manners, and, yes, my friends are a big inspiration for me. But I only write about friends as a collective group, not as individuals. In other words, I didn't write about bad fashion because Suzy wore clogs last week. So please don't parse my blog for things to be offended about.

This is a humor blog? But you're not funny.

If this blog isn't to your taste, that's OK. I'm not much for meanness or fart jokes, and I'm sure not everyone wants to hear about that time I tried to get a job as a flight attendant.

You aren't mean? What are you, some kind of hippie?

I think there's a continuum of humor: irreverent, offensive, and cruel. Irreverent is tongue-in-cheek, where it's plain you're just kidding. Offensive would be picking on a group as a whole, like Mormons or women over 30. Cruel would be singling out individuals for ridicule. I stay away from offensive or cruel on this site, because I think it's lazy writing and a particularly cowardly form of bullying.

What's your real name?
Shannon Lee Stamey. Really. Other folks can be anonymous all they want, but that's not for me. I think Internet anonymity can bring out the Inner Meanie faster than the Metro during tourist season. I don't like my Inner Meanie, and I don't think she deserves a platform.

You were a diplomat's wife?

Yes. I was posted in Bogota, Colombia, and Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. We divorced amicably in 2006. All I'll say about that is that it's very difficult to live as an appendage of someone else, and coming home to start over was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Also, I would advise against lurching straight from a quarterlife crisis into a starter marriage.

Can we see a photo? What do you look like?

I hate having my picture taken, so, actually, very few photos of me exist. If it helps, sober guys tell me I look like Jennifer Jason Leigh, and drunk guys say I remind them of Juliette Lewis. So take a Breathalyzer and adjust your expectations accordingly.

You suck! Or, I love you! How do I tell you that?

Email As part of my general "Don't Be a Jerk" philosophy of blogging, all emails are confidential unless you grant me permission to post them.