(parenthetically speaking)

a random gal’s random thoughts about nothing and everything in general

To Shred Or Not To Shred, That is the Question February 21, 2009

Off the top of my head, I know I have at least four of them: bins scattered around my house that are full of papers that need to be shredded. They’re not all just my papers, but a combination of mine and my mother’s (all her mail comes to me). Which doubles the amount of credit card offers, old bills, and other crap that needs to be shredded to avoid any chance of identity theft. paper-shredder

Truth be told, I’m probably overly cautious about what does and doesn’t need to be shredded. But I figure if there’s any question whatsoever, then it’s probably safer to err on the side of caution. Because while the thought of someone stealing my possessions—like my TV, my digital camera, my jewelry (not that I have any), or even my car—is frightening, the thought of someone stealing my identity is absolutely horrifying. Talk about feeling violated! I can’t even imagine what it would be like to know someone is out there pretending to be me—even if it’s just in name in order to charge up my credit cards. Then there’s the monster hassle of having to cancel and replace everything, and repair any damage they may have done to the good credit score it took so long to build up.

So at least twice a week, as I go through the latest stack of mail, I sit there and contemplate, “Should I shred this one or not?” And the to-be-shredded pile just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

It wouldn’t be so bad if shredding wasn’t such a pain. But the cheapest shredders only take one or two pieces of paper at a time, plus the bin fills up so fast that you have to stop every so often to empty it, inevitably getting a handful of errant shreddings all over the place (especially if you have a cat who thinks they’re fun to play in). Shredding might not be so bad if you could sit there and watch TV while you were doing it, but the darn things are so loud that you have to crank up the volume on your TV so high that, at least for me, it takes the enjoyment out of it (I’m not keen on loud noises).

The other thing that gets me about shredding is that it’s just another reminder of how wasteful our society is. As I’m doing it, I always feel a little angry about all the trees that died in vein for something I didn’t even want in the first place and which I then have to take time out of my day to dispose of.

At this point, my to-be-shredded pile is so huge that I might have to call in the pros, with their high-speed, high-capacity manglers, to do it for me. The ironic thing is that once they’re done, they’ll no doubt send me an invoice—which I’ll just have to add to the shredding pile a month or two down the road.

 

Keep your butt in the car, dammit! February 6, 2009

Smokers S U C K! There, I said it.

Of course, I’m generalizing, and I’d be the first to complain if someone out there was universally disparaging all middle-aged white women with an unhealthy affection for Popeye’s fried chicken, but I see a pattern here. And enough is enough!

What burns me up about smokers (no pun intended) is that they seem to think that cigarettes are somehow invisible. But let me set you straight. Not only can I smell your noxious cancer sticks 100 yards away, but when you carelessly toss your cigarette butt on the ground, it’s called littering. And it’s just plain disgusting, thoughtless, and rude. 3212564613_52f91d950d_b1

And I’m not afraid to tell you so. I mean, I will go Christian Bale on someone if I see them even think about not properly disposing of their nasty little habit. It’s literally my biggest pet peeve. And believe me, I have a lot of them. (Which may help explain why I’m over 40 and still single. That and the Popeye’s fried chicken.)

In fact, I’m sort of surprised I haven’t gotten a beatdown after one of my outbursts. For instance, one time my brother and I were in downtown Atlanta at a Thrashers hockey game, and after the game, as everyone was filing out into the MARTA train station (which is already a little sketchy in and of itself), I made a comment to this big, older dude who shamelessly tossed his butt on the ground not five feet from a trash can. Well, let’s just say it’s probably a good thing there were a lot of people around that night. (Too many witnesses, if you know what I mean.) P.S. My brother never said anything, but I think it’s safe to say he was horrified, and probably embarrassed, by the whole incident, but when it comes to this, I just can’t hold my tongue sometimes. It just blurts out.)

Another time, as I was getting out of my car to go into this Blockbuster store in Austin, a woman in the SUV next to me stuck her hand out the window and flicked her lipstick-stained cig onto the pavement right in front of me. So I bent over, picked up the butt, handed it back to her, and said, “Excuse me, ma’am, I think you dropped this.” Like it had been all accidental on her part. Because if anyone is smart enough to know better, I figure it’s supposed to be the people of Austin, Texas.

And then there was the infamous scene at the movie theater in Fort Worth, when my mother and sister and I were in line to buy tickets, and my mom made the mistake of not walking over to the trash can to properly dispose of her half-smoked Virginia Slim. (Which was only half-smoked because we were bugging her about smoking in such a crowded place anyway.) But it wasn’t me who went off this time. It was my sister. And all I can say is that I wouldn’t want to be a smoker and run into my sister in a dark, butt-filled alley.

What brought this whole rant on took place as I was driving in to work yesterday and I saw this guy toss his Camel stub out the window. (At least he looked like a Camel smoker—all hard and sallow and stubby.) And it got me to thinking that I hadn’t actually seen anyone littering like this in a while (relatively speaking, that is). Were smokers becoming more conscientious? Were my dreams coming true? Was the world becoming a better place? Sadly, no. I realized it had just been so cold out lately that no one wanted to roll down their window to flick their butts.

Except this guy. Who, I can only hope, will get his someday. Until then, people, don’t be a butthead. Keep your butts to yourself!

 

Bah Humbug, Part 2 January 24, 2009

2186231248_1445b1f83c_o3 I could also call this post Wardrobe Malfunction, Part 2. I was at a convention center for a travel expo this afternoon and saw a woman in a Christmas sweater. C’mon people, it’s January 23, time to retire the holiday apparel! If not, I’m left to think you’re one of those freaks who eats, sleeps, and breathes Christmas all year long, and that’s just sad. At this point, I’d rather you already be breaking out the Easter outfits than being stuck walking around in a Rudolph sweater with Christmas bells on it!

 

It’s On Like Donkey Kong January 21, 2009

Wow. My brother got more than 400 hits on his blog the other day. (I’ve had a paltry 120 hits in total, much less in one day!) Sadly, this brings out the competitive streak in me. Now I want 400 hits in one day.

But I have no idea how to go about it. I’m sure I could do all the normal social networking stuff I read so much about, and get on Twitter and delicious and all those other sites, but geez, just having a blog is time-consuming enough.

Still, I’ve got to figure out a way I can beat my brother. Not in a mean-spirited way, just in a healthy brother and sister rivalry kind of way that, truth be told, isn’t all that uncommon in our family. (You should see our ping-pong matches. And don’t even ask about the Monopoly incident of ’91!)

Blatant man candy pic. Meow!

Superfluous man candy pic. Meow!

Maybe I should write about something sensational that will get people’s attention, like saying that I, not that Ashley Dupre chick, was the call girl who brought down Eliot Spitzer’s career. Or maybe I should blog about something controversial, like that the egg definitely came before the chicken. Or maybe I should inject a lot of celebrity names like Brad Pitt and Paris Hilton that no doubt get Googled thousands of times a day.

Or maybe the whopping five to seven of you a day who happen to stumble upon my blog can help me out. Maybe you can help me take my brother down by passing my blog’s link along to your friends and family and having them pass it along to their friends and family and so on. Oh, I’m sure I won’t come anywhere near 400 hits a day, but I at least want to give him a good fight. I want to be able to call him up and say, “Put on your gloves, bro, because we’re going 10 rounds.” We’ll call it the Becker Battle of the Blogs.

Boxing announcer Michael Buffer will start the fight with his infamous “Let’s get ready to rumble” line. Stars like Oprah and Jennifer Lopez and Tom Cruise will be there in the front row. We’ll even get Sylvester Stallone to referee. (See how I’m already sneaking those celebrity names in here!) And hopefully I’ve have a little thing called luck in my corner. Now ring the bell, dammit, ’cause it’s on like Donkey Kong.

 

When Good Service Goes Bad, Part 2 January 12, 2009

Okay, here’s a new one.

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I made my first trip to the gargantuan BrandsMart store by my office yesterday (which, FYI, I found extremely overwhelming in a gawdy Vegas sort of way), and when I went to check out, I had no sooner handed over my purchases, than the cashier said, “Please check YES or NO on the screen.” There, on the screen of the thingy you swipe your credit card through, was the question, “Was your cashier friendly today?” Well, um, damn, I’ve barely started my transaction, should how can I say? Plus, I’ve got to pick up the stylist and check the appopriate box right in front of the checker who’s about to complete my transaction. Wouldn’t checking “no” be like harassing your waiter right before he’s about to serve your food?

And this after I was already annoyed, because before they would even give me my new $39.99 router to take to the checkout stand, they were asking me for my phone number. Why, I ask you, do they need your name, rank, and serial number just so you can buy something? I mean, if I have the cash, or my credit card goes through, what the heck else do you need? Before you know it, they be wanting our fingerprints and a pint of blood before we can even buy a stinkin’ pack of gum!

 

Bah humbug!

Okay people, the holidays are over — time to take down your Christmas lights and decorations!

I guess given how early the Christmas onslaught starts these days (I could swear I say my first holiday commercial back in October), that still having all of your holiday cheer up 18 days after the fact isn’t all that inconsiderate, but the very fact of how early they start bombarding you with holiday hoopla is why I’m so ready to move on once they’re actually over.

So take down those twinklers, let the air out of the inflatable Santa, pack away the wreath, and, for gosh sakes, take down that giant “Happy birthday, Jesus” sign in your yard! It’s enough already!

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When Good Service Goes Bad January 9, 2009

In my head, I’m always bitching about bad service. Maybe a cashier didn’t say thank you when she finished ringing me up or the guy at the drive-through forgot to give me a straw, or — my personal favorite! — the person behind the counter didn’t even bother to get off their cellphone while they were helping me with my transaction. I’m a HUGE believer in good customer service and feel strongly that it can literally make or break a business.

Through no skill of my own, but rather through my job, I’ve been lucky enough to have been hosted at some pretty swanky hotels, restaurants, spas, and even on a private jet once, and as such, have been treated to some examples of personal service and attention like you can’t believe. But is there a point at which good service turns bad? My brother Jon — who just happens to be the smartest guy I know — thinks so.

2729979786_de6147988c_m4My brother and his wife were dining at a semi-posh Atlanta restaurant recently and they could barely take a sip of their wine without a waiter refilling it or could hardly start a new sentence without someone popping by to ask how they were doing. As a couple with two small children (as precious as they may be), they look forward to an evening out as a way to escape all the chatter and chaos and want nothing more than to be able to sit back and relax for a while. But apparently this dinner was anything but relaxing. “I hate good service!” my brother told me afterward.

There does seem to be a fine line between good service and service that’s just a little too good. But I’d rather have annoyingly good service versus annoyingly bad service any day!

Which reminds of an incident last week, went I went to the AT&T store to buy my new iPhone. The woman helping me was knowledgeable and helpful and everything was going along perfectly well until we were wrapping up the transaction and she let me know that someone might be calling me and asking me about how I was treated that day. At this point, she looked me straight in the eye, reminded me of her name, and said, “Be sure and give me a 5. A 5 is what I need. A 5 will give me a great rating. Remember, when they call you, to give me a 5.” Not “Please give me a 5” or “I’d be flattered if you gave me a 5,” but rather a “Give me a 5 or else!” I wanted to say something back to her like, “Don’t push it, beeaatttcch!” but I just smiled and walked out the door. She should know, though, that when AT&T does come calling, I’ll be making up my own damn mind about what score to give her, and it certainly won’t be a 5. I guess good customers can sometimes go bad, too!