…before I head out to a service appointment for my SUV. Yes, an appointment. Like a car doctor. Don’t worry though…its just a lube jobby regular service check up thing. You know, drop-trou-and-cough type stuff. No biggie. But I got ready too early. I’ve got 30 mins to burn. Damnit. I hate wasting time. Maybe that’s why I was always late. WAS. I valued my time more than others. So the lasting effect is that I still hate waiting but I’m never early. I need to work on that. I also need to work on the byproduct of all that: procrastination. Eh, maybe later. I fire up my Apple TV, go to the TED app and click the “inspiring” tab. F**k coffee. I just need a pep talk. It randomly cycles through some popular talks that their fancy meta data and algorithms (aka an intern) has decided are “inspiring.” I’m skeptical, but allow the technology to make a choice for me, as if my research would be any better. On comes Thandie Newton, who talks for 15 mins about your sense of “self” and its direct correlation to your sense of awareness and reality.
She’s beautiful, intelligent, well spoken. Her story is inspiring. Her ‘lense’ is interesting. And the context it has given her is unique. Hence why she is on stage. She seems creative…a storyteller romantically connecting dots, staying hopeful, and challenging herself. Ah yes, an actress and dancer. It makes sense now. Her life designed her abilities. Now she’s designing her life — her SELF. She receives a standing ovation and fights back tears. Me too. Because it’s her truth. It’s real. Thanks for sharing your story Thandie. I can’t help but think that my TEDx talk is centered around a very similar theme: our social identity. Maybe someday you’ll see it.
I curiously Google “social identity ted talk” to see what comes up.
Ha. Wow. Ok, maybe we have more in common than I thought. As time goes on, hopefully Google will love my video too, and we will be sharing the same search page.
Time to go.
At the dealership buying my new $200 oil. I can’t help but think where the old oil goes and where the new oil comes from. I quickly bury that deep, deep within my brainskull after sitting comfortably on a leather couch in a lightly decorated waiting area staring blankly out at the showroom floor. Super shiny, top of line, state of the art vehicular machines strategically placed throughout. They are the cleanest they’ve ever been and the cleanest they will ever be. And we buy because they are shiny and perfect. Maybe to make up for the fact that we, as humans, are not.
As I sip my mediocre complimentary Keurig Columbia light roast coffee I glance at the gigantic glass door refrigerator full of complimentary bottled water, just waiting. Waiting for those bottles to fill up landfills. Waiting for a sales guy to ask me if I “need any help” so I can jokingly tell him I want “one of everything” and then politely turn him down. He’s too busy waiting for the next eager customer. I’m waiting for my precious machine to be refreshed and properly lubed up so it’s engine can make sweet sweet love under the hood while I galavant across Los Angeles and beyond to wherever my heart and head takes me. I thought I didn’t need coffee. Yeah, but it was something to do, and it’s free. Yeah but it’s not mediocre, it sucks. Whatever.
What is this whiny and opinionated commentary coming from some show on the flatscreen on the only blank wall in the place. Oh, a show completely devoted to talking shit about shit. Of course! Literally just finding the most controversial or popular issues in entertainment news, and the host(ess) giving her take on them, which from what I can see really pleases the crowd at every twist and turn. I mean they have a chance to be on TV! “So smile and nod larger than life! This is your time to shine!” says the non-existent producer. Oh wait, A cutaway shot of the producer waving her hands erratically before a commercial break to pump up the crowd? (sigh) I take a moment to check my email…hoping there is something to save me. Nope. And we’re back! She just says what everyone else is thinking. She judges. She gossips. She promotes stereotypes. She defends people that she likes and shuns those that she doesn’t. She talks to the crowd and lightly insults them while providing bullshit advice…about their thoughts on entertainment. That’s it. And I can’t look away. Wendy Williams has got me hooked, in the worst way. A dramatic friend for all the people in American who wish they could meet celebrities and tell them what they really think. Except the joke is on them. But they’ll never know it. Their ignorance is a messy bliss. I’m snapped out of Wendy’s cult-like performance right in the middle of her not recognizing one of her interns who is being ‘made over’ live by a flamboyant and passionate stylist who actually does seem to know what he’s doing judging by the ooo’s and ahh’s of the crowd…but I still don’t care. They switch to a segment where they investigate why Rob Kardashian can’t hold down one long term girlfriend. To prove their point they show a Snapchat video from Kim to Rob, pretending to be sad, complete with a gushing tears overlay. Apparently that solves the case.
Just then I get a notification that Kim Kardashian is “popular” right now on Twitter. I’m serious. It happened right after. I cannot make this shit up. You can actually see in the screenshot that I was writing some of this very post as a text to myself at that very moment.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see a service technician lean down to the family sitting beside me and begin to explain in a very serious tone of voice, the diagnosis of their vehicle. It was like a doctor giving grim news about a loved one outside the ER. He lowers his voice, slows his speech and eventually reveals the problem: “I don’t know how else to say this, but we found out that your fuel pumps are malfunctioning…both of them. So they are both going to need to be replaced.” A hush came over the family as they ran through a marathon of emotions. The technician waited. When there was no response…he continued to deliver the icing on the cake. “Yeah, and we actually don’t have those parts in stock, so we’ll have to order them. The vehicle probably won’t be ready until Monday…well, let’s just say Tuesday. Another hush. This time they were confused. The son perks up and delivers his bold question “So like, how bad is it? I mean can’t we still drive it?” Similar to a doctor trained to calculate all the worst case scenarios in mere seconds, the technician smiles and sighs, “well, technically yes, but…” and goes on to list off every single one of the things that could go wrong…leading up to suggesting certain death and 57 car pileup via a highway engine stall. It reminded me of the upsell bait I almost bit on from the service manager only minutes before when he informed me I hit a certain mileage mark that indicated I need a full service appointment to basically replace everything but the engine. Only $1200 and a half day. But 100% necessary. I think. But I have to get back to the westside to get my hair cut (and flamboyantly styled) today. I don’t have time for that shit. It will have to wait.
Woman sits down, nervously shouts to her daughter some sort of half question. Daughter is too busy looking at the shiny toys in the showroom to even respond. I’m guessing this isn’t the only place that this “exchange” occurs on a daily basis. Daughter begins bullshitting with sales guy. He happily obliges in order to remove himself from the nothingness of his day and enter into a fake reality for at least a couple minutes. Mom sighs and settles into the leather couch. All is well in the world now. 2 minutes later, daughter, who has decided it’s time to leave, gestures a half-ass “come on” motion to her mom. She stands up and hands me and the ‘clearing throat man’ on the opposite couch her daughters business ‘postcard’ saying that “if you’re looking to buy a house my daughter is a real estate agent…” but before she could finish her sentence, daughter motions again and they leave. Neither of them said hello or goodbye. I look at the card. Oh she’s a model too? Cool. Classic LA. Snapped a photo (to prove that this also really happened) and threw it back on the table. No thanks.
Forgot to mention the man clearing his throat for the past 35 minutes on the opposite couch. I tried to tune it out as well. Probably preparing for an audition. He’s acting like a very important person. I’m not so sure. Doesn’t matter because all I’m hearing is a continuous throat clearing noise. And now glottal fry’s? Maybe if you stop clearing your damn throat you wouldn’t have to do that. Now he’s talking out loud to himself. Half-whispering. Lost in his own world. Running lines. Dude, that is doing more damage than any amount of talking or singing will ever do. Pipe down, save it for your bedroom and save your chords.
The news pops on. An all gender bathroom in a LA unified district high school? Yup. They get a closeup of the new sign. It looks like the janitor ripped off the old one and screwed in the new one in under 5 mins at the end of his shift. Underwhelming. But the issue is too. Well, for people like me who know equality will win. And it’s definitely going to win. So let the conservative bigots waste their time and go crazy about it. Let Fox News waste their time. I’m happy that we’re moving forward. These freedom fighting kids seem pretty happy too.
Back to the family grieving the loss of their beloved fuel pumps. Oh now I get the delay in their response. There’s a language barrier. The son has been translating for his mom and older sister. Making them understand. Setting the schedule. Getting them on their way. Well done sir. Boldness justified. Still can’t help but laugh at that moment we’ve all been in, when a $2000 service bill is dropped in our laps out of nowhere. Cars are wonderful and much more efficient than ever before. But they constantly depreciate and deteriorate. There’s got to be a better way. Uber? Tesla? Hyperloop? Jetpacks with a GoPro on the helmet, so I can live stream my commute to a work meeting for all my loyal fans, all while my new life insurance company holds their collective breath. How will it all work out?
Star Wars ringtone blasts full volume behind me on a businessmans smartphone (probably a Blackberry) as he scurries outside to answer. Why so worried, sir? Be loud and proud. That’s why you have that f**king ringtone right?
Another sales guy grabs a bottle of water out of that earth destroying fridge. WTF? Don’t any of them have a reusable bottle? Is there a faucet somewhere? Why does the fridge have a glass door when all it contains is water bottles? I sip more mediocre coffee from my styrofoam cup. Fuck. A styrofoam cup! C’mon guys, now you’re making me look as hypocritical as Wendy. How did I get caught up in this? I immediately throw it away to make myself feel better. Because once it’s in the trash bag, it disappears…right? Ok cool.
Back to the news. The Bernie Sanders rally in Washington Square, NYC. 30k people. No big deal right? Think again.
I was happy to see that the local LA media covered this event, since most national publications did not. I wonder why. Oh not so fast, they’ve already moved on to the one “negative” thing that happened during the rally. Dr Paul Song’s passionate misstep when speaking about the relationship between politicians and corporations, during his opening remark: ”Medicare-for-all will never happen if we continue to elect corporate Democratic whores who are beholden to big pharma and the private insurance industry instead of us.” He quickly tweeted an apology afterwards:
What most people don’t know is that Song’s wife is one of the most well known CNN hosts in the world. Maybe he took a page from Lisa Ling’s book of fearless and ferocious journalism and lashed out on purpose to get the crowd fired up, to take a stab on Bernie’s behalf. Or maybe he just went a little too far. Bernie’s swift, clear and decisive response the following morning, easily ended the overly dramatic news story:
But that’s it, the news “anchors” moved on. Why? Because there’s nothing left to say. Bernie is smarter than that. It wasn’t about the comment, it was about the rally. Thanks media for flipping the script. You miss the goddamn point and are reporting surface level news while hiding the positive facts. But I’m not too worried because this is more news than I’ve watched in over a month. Maybe the same cannot be said for the rest of America. Either way, everyone should watch the replay of his rally and listen to Bernie speak. He tells it like it is. He digs deep and asks the important questions. And we need more of that. “Waiting on the World to Change?” No thanks John Mayer, that’s so 2009. We can’t afford to wait.
Truth is, politics aren’t fast enough. Government is not efficient and disruptive enough. That’s what he’s tackling. I have a feeling he will get along great with Haley Van Dyck, and lead us toward the future. She’s the head of US Digital Services, which according to her recent TED talk, is an Obama-created special forces digital team comprised of engineers, developers, designers, data scientists and beyond, brought together to help save the failing digital infrastructure of the US Government and along with it bring the same level of efficiency, disruption and talent that Silicon Valley brings to it’s billion dollar unicorn startups. What a novel idea! Only 2 decades too late and billions of dollars already spent/wasted. But every big project starts with a single step and I’m proud to see that Obama is starting from the inside out this time around. And they are actively recruiting top tech talent from Google and Facebook to “reboot how the government works.” If you’ve been waiting for the digital revolution to hit him, check out the absolute must-read article on this new initiative coming from Fast Company entitled “Inside Obama’s Stealth Startup.” In it the President talks about sitting down with talented people to offer a new, more noble opportunity in technology:
“My pitch is that the tech community is more creative, more innovative, more collaborative and open to new ideas than any sector on earth. But sometimes what’s missing is purpose. To what end are we doing this?” As the president explains, he asks potential recruits, “Is there a way for us to harness this incredible set of tools you’re developing for more than just cooler games or a quicker way for my teenage daughters to send pictures to each other?”
Speaking of disruption and total internet dominance: at the annual F8 conference, Faceboook unveiled their new chatbot, I mean “Messenger Platform (beta).” David Marcus, Facebook’s head of messaging presented the new product to the crowd and thousands of live-streamers, but had to inject this joking remark along the way, aimed at businesses on Facebook:
“I guarantee you’re going to spend way more money than you want on this”
They’ve already won. And you’ll be better because of it…says their fearless leader. Yes Mr. Zuckerberg. Anything you say Mr. Zuckerberg. I am your digital servant Mr. Zuckerberg. Sorry. I’m just being sarcastic. This will help everyone, I think. In fact I believe messaging as a tool for research, customer service, live chat, and machine-learning will be extremely valuable. It could render repetitive Google searches completely useless and inefficient. Just think if you could just ask a company a specific question rather than have to find it by yourself. What if you wanted to check on the shipping for an order you recently made online. Or maybe you want to know when your favorite band is coming to your town to play. Possibilities are endless. But its coming to you from the 800 pound gorilla internet company you use every day. That concerns me. I’d like to see independent companies go “all in” on this type of technology and service so that you don’t necessarily have to be trapped in social media land to have a meaningful conversation. I know, I know, Facebook Messenger is a separate app, but still. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
In a very un-Zuckerberg style, Mr. Facebook also took a hard jab at Trump and other fear-mongering leaders during the conference:
“I’m starting to see people and nations turning inward against this idea of a connected world. I hear fearful voices talking about building walls … It takes courage to chose hope over fear…Instead of building walls we can help build bridges. Instead of dividing people we can connect people. We do it one person at a time, one connection at time. That’s why I think the work we’re doing together is more important than it has ever been before,”
Before I go too far down that rabbit hole (hehe), I’m jolted to reality by my service guy to tell me my beautiful baby is ready to go and in great condition. “I know,” I say confidently under my breath. He continues trying to assure me that they’ve checked every nook and cranny. I appreciate it but I’m ready to go. Shake hands. Get ready to pay. But I have to pee. Caffeine has kicked in. I’m suddenly happier. I look at the men’s sign on the way in and think about the all gender bathroom in that high school. Good for them. Now the kids can make out in privacy! No more getting broken up at your locker by Donny McPeterson the new oddly charming science teacher. :-)
I talked to the receptionist/billing/office manager person as I was paying. She’s waited a long time to have Saturday off from work (which is tomorrow). I have a feeling she’s also waited to be spoken to for more than 15 seconds by…anyone. She’s probably in her late 40’s/early 50’s. Slightly overweight. I don’t feel bad for her, because humans don’t deserve pity, they deserve empathy. I maintain eye contact with her and suggest in a positive way that she should do something fun for her day off. But her response, verbatim, was:
“I haven’t found something fun in a long time.”
Whoa. Stop the presses. Say what? Ok let’s chat. She runs with it: from smart phones to VHS tape collections, her favorite Disney movies, love of horses, her community garden that she would still like to be active in, but can’t because the Saturday work schedule, her sons erratic sleeping behaviors as a boy (he’s 23 now), them both living in a small apartment, neither of them ever owning a computer (what!), her being over worked, and admitting again, albeit not directly, that she’s unhappy. I can see it in her eyes. She’s waiting for something good, but knows nothing it coming. I tune everything out and listen to her like she’s the only thing that matters to me for 15 minutes straight. She apologized for talking so much. My vehicle is ready, but I don’t care. I immediately dismiss it and focus back on the most important thing in the world: I high five her and say that it was nice talking to her and urged her again to make sure she enjoys her Saturday no matter what. Because she’s a human being and that’s the way it should be. She nods.
While all this went down, at least 4 people came up to ask her for something, not waiting, but simply interrupting our conversation for really fickle and lazy reasons. She didn’t hesitate to help them, and didn’t skip a beat in her conversation with me. Before I left, I saw a young sales guy exit the bathroom, come up to her counter, use the hand sanitizer and continue on with his day. No hi, no nothing. And why is the hand sanitizer there anyway? Get one for you own desk or put it by the water cooler. it’s just dumb to have it in front of her. And why does he even need it? He looks pretty healthy to me. Didn’t he wash his hands? Wait, what if he didn’t wash his hands, but then uses that s**t instead. Ugh. I don’t care. All I can think about is that she might actually do something “fun” tomorrow. Or maybe I made her day. But what she probably doesn’t know, is that she made mine too.
I walk outside and take a gulp of fresh air. My vehicle is done with its complimentary wash and super lube job, but no one on the service team bothers to tell me or pull it around. I only wait for a moment outside and then interrupt the young guys bullshitting each other while wiping down another vehicle next to mine, and ask them what’s up. “Oh yeah, the guy said it was ready, so…”
You gonna bring it around or do you want me to hop in and pull a full throttle movie car chase reverse e-brake drifty slide out of the service bay and straight into the sales lot? Do ya!? No. He brings it around. I thank him and tip him $10 for his brimming enthusiasm and excellent customer service. Oh wait. No it was mostly so that he sees a glimmer of kindness in his day from someone who actually does give a shit.
Kill the world with kindness.
10 mins later I’m waiting in traffic, blaring electronic dance music, thinking about my haircut. Is there a donut shop near the barber? I have eaten a donut a day for like 3 days straight for no apparent reason. I guess I forgot how much I love donuts. No I should eat lunch first. I’m hungry. Just go home and figure it out.
Pull into the driveway before the garage just in time to see a person letting their dog out for a quick shit. Back inside in less than 15 seconds. Dog waited all day for that heavenly patch of grass. But that’s all he gets for his patience. He is living the good life, let me tell you.
I take a bite of my sandwich and wait for my laptop to boot up. It waits for me to press a key, and click something. “Please click something…anything…” For a second I feel like Elliot from Mr. Robot.
I just stare at the cursor in subconscious rebellion — waiting for it to click ME. Or for something to steal me away — for the earth to give me a sign that there’s something more — that maybe there is hope after all.
My girlfriend texts me:
“I can’t WAIT to be home and see you.”