Normal, Stupid or Jerk?

Ask me to use “normal”, “stupid”, and “jerk” all in one sentence and I’ll say, “normally, I come across at least one stupid jerk a day.” This past Friday, I had the “pleasure” of experiencing more than the usual quota. Permit me to explain:

I live in a 96-unit condo building alongside a major thoroughfare that derives its traffic from the off ramp of the expressway two blocks west of my building. One block east of me is another, much larger
condo complex. My co-owners are the poor cousins and those to the east are the enviable rich ones. They not only have 24 hour doorman service but apparently enough clout so that when the building was built, a stop light was put at the driveway to the complex to make it convenient for the snobs to be able to make a left turn onto the street and go west.

On the other hand, my building has two entrance/exits to the street spanning both sides of the north-side outdoor parking lot and smaller eastern parking area. Our village would never allow for too many stoplights so close to each other, so for those of us trying to get out of the lot and make a left turn onto the busy street, it is pot luck. We have to wait for traffic to subside and sometimes be daring. Those of use, such as yours truly, who habitually use the east driveway to get onto the street have the comfort of taking advantage of a safety island for left turns. If traffic going west is too heavy while nothing is happening on the eastbound side, we can at least make half the effort and get onto the safety island and then wait for the westbound traffic to subside and merge in.

Anyway, Friday morning my car rolls up the indoor lower east garage ramp only to be greeted by eastbound traffic at a total standstill. After waiting a minute or two, I inch my way into it, content to forget about the desire to make a left turn and go westbound. I’m already resolved to the notion of having to go a mile out of my way to finally get my car turned into the intended direction. Even if I tried to just go the one block east to the entrance to our condo neighbors, make a u-turn and take advantage of the stoplight at their driveway, it would not have helped. Other frustrated drivers were not giving up an inch and were blocking any effort at an open path for those at the rich people’s building from making a legally mandate left turn.

As I got closer to ground zero of the cause of this traffic gridlock, it became quite apparent what was occurring. The State of Illinois hands out contracts using taxpayer money to repave streets that don’t need it. You ask how I know that it is a waste? Well, paving the same area three times in six years should be a clue. Worse, they pick the most devastating time of the day to do this work.

They refuse to schedule the work at night because they don’t want to pay a premium for night work as well as fear of their employees getting hit by bad drivers. There is no justification for the first excuse because there should never be a premium paid for working a late shift. In today’s economy, people should be glad to have work. The second excuse is debatable. At night, there is less traffic and it should be more manageable.

I’m not sure if the traffic control workers at the road construction sites are employed by the State or by the contractors who do the work. It doesn’t really matter. Most of the time, they are stupid jerks. (Aha! You were waiting for the tie-in to the title.) Which leads me to first make an observation about this expression:

There used to be a time when being a jerk was synonymous with being stupid. Then, the algorithm changed and one could be stupid or just be a jerk. Jerk became associated with conspiring to be stupid or nasty and not necessarily accidentally. So, if I called you stupid, I understood you could not help yourself. If I called you a jerk, I was confirming that I knew that what you did was intentional, well-thought out and that you would never amount to anything good. But, a stupid jerk! That put someone in a special class. That meant that we all knew that you intentionally did bad by us but you screwed it up and couldn’t even get your evilness accomplished smoothly.

You see, the main corner two blocks east of my building is a diagonal intersect. The road crew decided to repave the left turn lane at the stoplight. In doing so, they closed off the left turn and the left traffic lane, naturally, leaving just the right traffic lane open. However, the stupid jerk traffic control person was holding all cars from pushing into the right lane while the traffic light was green, but letting them inch ahead when it was red. Not only that, but when a dump trump got filled with torn-away pavement and needed to go move it to a landfill, she held up traffic once again while the light was green, instead of waiting until it was red. This kept all eastbound traffic sitting in essentially the same spot for more than ten minutes. And, as I mentioned earlier, this same left turn lane had been repaved twice earlier in recent memory. It did not need another facelift.

The other encounter with a stupid jerk that day also had to do with being behind the wheel. On my way back from visiting a client as well as taking care of a couple of errands, I decided to take a different route back home fearful of being exposed to more roadwork. As I approached the major intersection two blocks west of my building from the north, the car just ahead of me pulled into the left turn lane as I would do to be able to go east towards my building. The driver- at this point sex unknown- stopped in the left turn lane instead of moving up into the intersection to be ready to finish the turn as oncoming traffic cleared when the light changed. Sixteen year old kids just getting their first drivers license know this. But this stupid jerk sat there with a good thirty seconds more left on the green light and was content to wait until the next change to green. Obviously my honking did nothing to budge the driver, but it was a healthy outlet for me.

As soon as the next green light came along with the obligatory left turn accommodation, the car in front proceeded as well mine did after it. Since the street we were both now on was a two-lane road and the car ahead of mine was moving along slowly, I had two thoughts in my head- one was that the driver was ancient and to hold my tongue while the other was to quickly go into the other lane and beat a path around it. As I came along side the driver, I quickly noticed it was a woman probably in her thirties or forties, yakking away on a small phone she held to her ear. Stupid freaking jerk! There, I said it. Thank you.

By the way, the next day, as I was taking a long walk to a planned destination on the street around 7:30am, I saw that the road gang was back out, this time repainting white lines at the diagonal intersection two blocks east. Once again, surreptitiously, the traffic control person decided to stop cars while they had a green light. I smirked, continuing my eastbound walk. two blocks and at least five minutes later, I turned back to see that the easterly traffic was still at a standstill and thought I heard honking.

As Rodney King once said, “Can’t we all get along?” No!

Tangents, Rudeness and Do Not Call Lists

Get me in a conversation and I like to go off on a tangent. Which reminds me of what happened the other day when I answered my cell phone only to receive a solicitation call.

But let me first explain that my cell phone is registered in my business name and address. It is the only cell phone I have. About a dozen years ago I came to the conclusion that I no longer needed a land line at a physical location. I was now a part of the many self-employed consultants who run a virtual office.
I can either do work at a client site and more often than not work from home remoting into sites as well. By the way, the spellchecker does not like the word “remoting”. Someone ought to tell the lexicographers that it’s the new way of working, baby.

I had maybe less than six months earlier re-registered my cell phone number on the “do not call list” as I was not sure if it was still on it. The website told me that my request was accepted but that it could take a month to kick in. Still, it seems that there are a lot of businesses that prey on suckers via Alexander Graham Bell’s gift to the world while ignoring the purpose of the list.

It’s true that charities are exempt as well as anyone affiliated with anyone with whom you currently do business. That means that a credit card company may sell your financial data and phone number to one of those solicitors and they want to claim that they are affiliated with the credit card company so it is okay to annoy you and me.

Anyway, back to the phone call. I’m driving my car with the bluetooth device plugged into my ear.
That’s another word- bluetooth. If you separate it into two words, someone is gonna think you have a strangely colored tooth and why would you want to stick it into your ear? So, again- the lexicographer is asleep on the job.

By the way- again- I want to run people off the road who put the phone to their ear instead of buying a less than $100 bluetooth device. If you happen to be one of them who holds the phone to your ear while driving- beware. You’ve been forewarned.

Again, back to the phone call. The lady said to me, “can I have the person who is in charge of your Com Ed bill?” For those of you who cannot figure this one out, Com Ed is short for Commonwealth Edison, which is the company that provides electricity to my residence. It also provides it to my so-called office but I could care less. I sublet space. The lessors deal with the utilities- not me.

I was annoyed for a few reasons- one, I got a call for solicitation on my business line; two, the number is supposed to be in the ‘do not call’ list; three- I hate talking on the phone when driving- even using the blue tooth because if it a customer support call it is difficult to give it the necessary attention.

I replied immediately: “that does not apply to me. Have a good day.”
The lady who called then said: “what do you mean by that?”
I answered: “look, you called me and I don’t need to say even a word.”
She quickly retorted: “okay, sorry.”

I hung up but really wanted to say: “no, you are not sorry. You pester people over the phone for a living. Even if you have a good product or service to sell you have no business bothering me or anyone else unless I asked you to call me. And I know whom I tell to call me.”

So, here’s the deal- if you hold a cellphone to your ear while driving and are also a phone solicitor- look in the mirror and ask yourself why people are rude to you. As Al Pacino once said in a movie
where he played a lawyer and said to the judge, “don’tcha even care?”

Never Shop for Food When Hungry

There are certain axioms that you have to believe are true. Like, not going shopping for food when you’re hungry. You just know that it’s gonna end up costing you more money as you start picking stuff off the shelves that at a more rationale moment you would just say “no- maybe some other time.” Instead, go grocery shopping after you’ve had a nice fulfilling meal. Better yet, write down on paper what you intend to purchase and try to stick to it.

Never stay behind someone who is driving while holding their cell phone glued to their ear. They give a you-know-what’s you-know-what about what you think. These selfish people are content to drive seven miles under the speed limit in the left lane and are for sure just as into themselves in all other aspects of their lives. The same goes for the motorist just ahead of you in either your lane or the one next to you who doesn’t put on the turn indicator when switching lanes.

I also have a theory that a person who uses a self-checkout lane at a store when he or she purchases twenty items and knows that he or she does not have a bar code on one or several of the products does so in spite. Never stand in line behind such a specimen of an alleged human being. Even if it takes you longer to check out by going to a lane where a store employee does the ringing up, it will help keep your blood pressure in check.

Never believe the look of disbelief on the face of the pitcher who just tossed a 95 mile an hour fastball just missing the head of the batter who comes up to the plate just after a .195 hitting shortstop banged a three-run homer. It just got away from the pitcher, right?

Never believe that politicians care what we think. All they want us to do is vote for them.

Never think that algebra, trigonometry, chemistry, physics and biology are taught in high school because one in a thousand students may actually need it in their careers. It’s taught to teach us that we don’t know anything.

Never believe anyone who says that “it’s not about the money”. It is only about the money. And its corollary, when the salesman says, “believe me, I’m not making any money on this”, you know he just put a down payment on a house.

When someone says “trust me”, call your lawyer.

When someone says, “I’ll call you back in five”, he really means hours and not minutes.

Never tell anyone how old you really are. They’ll just say that you don’t look your age and you’ll feel bad because you won’t know if they mean you look younger or older.

Never say, “well, if I just take one, it won’t hurt” because one is just a start.

Most importantly, never grow old. Those who tell you to stop acting like a kid are just jealous.

This Drives Me Angry

Psst… as long as my editor is not looking over my shoulder, I’d like to discuss a real pet peeve. He wants me to stick to topics that draw interest mostly from people who have angst about getting older. Heck, I think we all do. The guy who is twenty thinks about how mature he is going to have to act when he turns thirty-five. The gal who is forty with kids contemplates whether her future grandchildren should call her grandma, some other derivative or by her first name. She is also planning revenge on her own kids by spoiling the follow-up generation. Those in their late fifties and early sixties wonder if it makes sense to buy the burial plot now while it is cheaper or let the surviving relatives worry about it.

Back to my peeve. It’s about the jerks who drive their car while holding one hand on the steering wheel and the other on their cell phone attached to their ear. And they are doing this while going thirty miles an hour in a forty mile an hour zone- in the left lane. I want to yell at them, “stay the _____ home.” Or “hang up the _____ phone.” Or “pull over, _______.” You can fill in the missing blanks. My dander is up because these morons don’t give a ______ about being fair and decent to anyone else. It’s all about them. Their excuse, of course, is that it is not illegal in certain areas. But, that still doesn’t make it right.

In the City of Chicago, it is illegal to drive with the phone in your hand pushed against your ear. Trust me, it is probably the most ignored law by both the motorists and the cops. Fines range from $100 to $500. But, that does not seem to scare drivers from doing it. Some suburbs also do not permit driving and talking at the same time but unfortunately most have not enacted such a law. Even in the suburbs where distracted driving is not illegal, it is still a crime to do so while driving through a school or construction zone that has temporary speed reduction.

I’m not even bringing up a worse crime- texting while driving. The State Of Illinois issued over 7800 citations for distracted driving in 2010. From the number of violators I’ve observed this past year, this seems low- an average of a little more than 20 a day. Maybe some cops are too distracted themselves stopping off at doughnut shops.

It got me to thinking if there is a generation gap going on with this issue because I rarely see a senior citizen committing such a heinous crime. Some will say that’s because most of them cannot figure out how to even use the buttons on their cellphone to make a call. The seniors I know- ahem- mostly just take incoming calls. Less of a hassle. My mother accidentally discovers missed calls days after they were displayed on her cellphone desktop. Or she will call me and mention that she is returning a voice mail message I left. I tell her that I did not leave her a message. She then tells me that I indeed did. I then have to tell her in a nice way (yah, sure) that I left the message the previous week.

Forget about her creating or adding to the address book. She has me append any new entries for her. I still think she types the entire number in when she wants to make a call regardless.

This is the same lady who brags that she has an email address and once sent one out just for fun to prove it. What she forgets to mention is that:

a. she doesn’t have a clue as to what her email address is or where it is
stored or how to retrieve any possible waiting for her because-

b. she hasn’t checked her email account since the day she created it on her granddaughter’s computer.

Gotta go- my editor is coming around the corner.