In thoughtful (yet tastefully delayed) counterpoint to November’s ubiquitous thirty-days-of-thanks posts, I present the following “December 13th, early-afternoon-of-gripes” post. I will touch on such subjects as: “throwing rocks at my house and calling it ‘advertising’”; “that orange vest and whistle don’t trump physics”; and “phonebooks.”

A couple of these gripes are related. Although they may not seem so at first, “(fake) phonebooks” and “people throwing rocks at my house” are both things that the preternaturally stupid among us seem to regard as effective advertising. (Crossing guards are a completely separate phenomenon, but more on them later.) Back to the advertising though! I gather that a lot of businesses operate in a low-margin zone where things like “paying for postage stamps to get your ads into peoples’ mailboxes” isn’t “reasonable”, but is instead “just another way the corporate overlords to keep us down.” I guess I’ve been aware of this for years, but never paid much attention to it, because I usually just threw the un-posted junk out along with the rest of the posted junk from my mailbox. Now that I’m in a house without a traditional mailbox though (we’ve got those locking clusters of mailboxes in my neighborhood), it’s become apparent to me that businesses that advertise by stuffing people’s mailboxes are actually as irritating as I had always managed to avoid admitting. The epitome of this is the local kitchen-remodeling company who’s signature move has long been to stuff mailboxes with a “sample” (read: “unusable misshapen lump”) of granite that they have available for use in custom counter-tops. They thoughtfully put each hunk of granite into a plastic baggie, which they then glue to a flyer. When that shows up in my mailbox, it’s just annoying; when the granite-mongers can’t *get* into my mailbox though, they don’t do the reasonable thing (buy some stamps, fer crissakes!), instead they opt to drive around my neighborhood in a van, throwing their “advertisements” at all the houses in the neighborhood. Yes, that’s right, the line of thinking here is literally “IF I DRIVE AROUND THIS NEIGHBORHOOD IN MY CONSPICUOUSLY UNLABELED VAN, THROWING ROCKS AT THE HOUSES, THESE PEOPLE WILL WANT TO HIRE ME TO REMODEL THEIR KITCHENS. AWESOME!” I’d say that this reasoning implies an underlying belief on the rock-tosser’s part that he is *entitled* to a no-cost channel to deliver his advertising to me (otherwise, he’d just buy a damn stamp and do direct-mail advertising like all the other schnooks when he realized he couldn’t just stuff my mailbox. Then again, applying concepts like “belief” to the rock-tossers of the world might be attributing them with an unwarranted degree of sentience. (Draw your own conclusions on both counts.)

About those aforementioned phonebooks: It’s 2013, and as such, the “phonebooks” of our childhood no longer exist. The half-dozen “phonebooks” you find festooned over your mailbox (or speed-bumping your driving, or booby-trapping your front stoop) each year aren’t even published by “phone companies”; they’re just gigantic books of low-quality ads printed on cheap paper by parties utterly unidentifiable. (I looked for ten minutes, and couldn’t find a single clue as to where the last one on my doorstep came from.) Of course, anyone alive today is about as likely to use a “phone book” when trying to contact someone as they are to fire up a steam-powered buggy-whip on their next drive across town, but the phoneboooks just keep piling up on my front stoop anyway. This means that a *lot* of business owners out there really think that when I’m looking for a plumber, or auto-mechanic, or real-estate agent (see next paragraph), that I’ll make my choice by choosing an ad at random from a book full of ads run by businesses whose owners are so incredibly out of touch that they think people actually think “yellow pages” instead of “google.” Maybe I’m being unfair though; it probably doesn’t make sense for me to expect someone who doesn’t know what google *is* to go out and rely on it instead of the phonebook for advertising. Fair or not though, I’m damn-sure not hiring someone to do anything halfway important if they don’t know what google is.

BTW, I *am* similarly put off by the folks who tape their business cards to the outside of my mailbox (and every other mailbox in the cluster), but the icing on the cake for me was finding a brochure from a real-estate agent in my son’s “stuff to take home” bin at his pre-school. I’m not sure if this guy was trying to trade on the non-existing emotional connection I would feel with someone I’d never even met just because our kids were in the same pre-school (not even the same class!), or if he was just seizing a channel-of-convenience to get his content delivered. Either way, I’d sooner find my real estate agent in the fake yellow pages than give this guy my business.

And, finally, we come to the ultimate section of my first Gripes-cember post: CROSSING GUARDS!

To put it bluntly, an orange vest and a whistle are not sacred vestments and do *not* exalt you above the laws of man and nature. (This rejoinder, of course, applies to construction workers, and impatient church-goers who want to turn left out of their parking lot, as well.) Given your inability to render either my own, or the other cars on the road into massless phantom vehicles, if I’m driving, and I’ve come to a stop, and you are attempting to wave me directly into oncoming traffic: I WILL IGNORE YOU. If you blow your whistle louder and louder, and wave ever more frantically: I will continue to ignore you.

Furthermore, when (after two minutes of this), I point towards my eyes in the universal “USE YOUR EYES” gesture, and then at you, and then toward the oncoming traffic behind you that you are trying to wave me into, I am NOT telling you “I plan to execute a 3-point turn in the middle of this intersection”, I am telling you to “LOOK WTF YOU ARE DOING BEFORE YOU KILL SOMEONE.” (But, now that we’re talking, if you want me to pay you any heed at all, you’d better be ready to present evidence of your successful completion of a DOT-approved “flagger” or “crossing guard” training program and)

Anyway, happy gripes-cember everyone!