Five Ways to Better Friendship

I believe that people are basically good at heart, and in keeping with that philosophy, I am willing to entertain the idea that everything they do is aimed at making the world around them better. They seek to set others at ease, to do unto others as they would have done unto them, to deepen and broaden and cultivate man’s love for fellow man. All that said, I think that perhaps some things are not taken as they are intended. Humbly and briefly, I’d like to note a few random things people could do differently, which will make us all better friends.

1. “Rolling like thunder” is only good when it’s under the covers.

I can’t believe that I have to go here, but it appears that because the flush toilet has only been in use since the 1890s, some people haven’t completely gotten the hang of how this all works. A thousand writers have hectored us regarding their pet peeves in bathroom etiquette, so here’s mine: don’t be foul, or at least allow me to pretend it wasn’t you. The restroom is an odd place, where people do private things while pretending that there aren’t people doing the same things right next to them. This doesn’t bother everyone, but if you’re one of those lucky few who are immune to bitter shame … well, don’t be.

I will completely overlook that you were playing a video game at full volume on your phone. I will ignore that, along with the other noises that are rumbling from within that stall. I will assume that you are under a doctor’s supervision for the despairing stench you have unleashed in the restroom. But allow me to respect your privacy with regard to these matters. In other words, I do not want to know who you are. When me hear the door open and come in to handle a 60-second trip to the urinal and sink, it is not your cue to scramble back into your pants and race out of the stall with a wolfish grin on your face. I promise I’ll hurry through my business and flee the bathroom, and our friendship will be far better served if I don’t know it was you that destroyed the place for everyone else.

Image courtesy of http://www.madmagazine.com

2. Leave the laughter to other people.

Start with two examples of what you’re reacting to – the wrong way. Two weeks ago, a friend of mine posted on Facebook, “Why am I still attracted to bean bag chairs?” to which I responded immediately, “Gravity.” GET IT? Because bean bag chairs are LOW. No love for me, though. I decided that people in her circle don’t find humor in science. Two days ago, a friend from my fantasy football league posted to me (on my way to an intimidating 0-7 record) a link to the N’Sync video “Bye Bye Bye.” I growled at the kick when I’m down, and it wasn’t until the next day that I realized I had six players on bye. Well played, ya jerk. Hilarious, and right over my head.

The point is, it sucks when good humor goes unappreciated, so I’ll make you a deal: if you say something funny, we’ll all laugh. Sound fair? But prepare yourself for one of life’s great tragic truths, which is that sometimes people don’t laugh. That could mean you’re not funny, which isn’t really so tragic or unfair if you think about it. But it could also have just fallen flat, either because your audience just wasn’t up to it, or because the timing was wrong, or because you asked yourself, “Too soon?” and ended up losing that internal debate. Whatever the case, your joke isn’t any funnier in the reprise – either it failed to win appreciation the first time, or you need a girlfriend like mine, whom you can call up just to get an appreciative audience. Otherwise, you have to let that joke age like fine wine so it can eventually, like fine wine, cause hallucinations, arguments and car wrecks.

3. Maybe just type it the normal way.

Stop writing things that are impossible and/or meaningless. And I don’t mean “meaningless” in the same sense that TSA intercepts snowglobes in airport security checkpoints, which is to say, “stupid but someone still had to decide to do this.” The old principle that you shouldn’t use a word whose definition you don’t understand is valid when applied to emoticons.

I will admit to you that I have typed “LOL” on occasion. Sometimes I LOL. Ya rly; sue me. But I have NEVER typed LOLOLOLOL. Because that would be LAUGHING OUT LOUD OUT LOUD OUT LOUD OUT LOUD. Were a laugh of that magnitude ever to erupt from me, I would simultaneously lacerate my throat to such a degree that I would never be able to speak or laugh again, while rendering the entire acronym redundant because you would have just heard me laughing from wherever you are. Unless this is the kids’ way of saying, “Laughing out loud over lobotomy on lark. Obviously, love.” So you could be abbreviating something in a way I’m not familiar with, but if that’s what you were doing, I just want you to know that it was a callous and wholly inappropriate response to your friend’s Facebook post (“ugh monday totally branedead u all!!!”).

Recommendations for proper use of this one aren’t going to lead anywhere good.

Similarly, maybe sound out what you’ve typed before letting fly with that “send” button. Are you aware that, even in the highly unusual circumstance that you would double/triple/mangle letters in a word to indicate duration while speaking, you can only do that to the letters are actually vocalized? If you type “lllllllloooooooovvvvvvveeeeee!!”, I will want to know whether the series of silent Es actually indicates an emotional, exhausted pause after your expression of l-o-v. Either way, I am labeling your bullshit three-fourths melodrama and one-fourth impossible, and four-fourths lacking in kkkkknowledge.

4. Walking isn’t that boring

It hurts me in a metaphysical place that Maryland has passed a law outlawing cell phone use while driving and my beloved Commonwealth has not. You might argue that their need is the greater because their drivers are from From Hell and don’t so much drive as they do recruit, and you would be right, but not right enough to convince me that this law does not need to be federal and punishable with slow, Eighth Amendment-defying modes of execution. But the other thing that horrifies me is the number of people who declare they would never text behind the wheel, but can’t seem to walk anywhere without checking to make sure someone, somewhere isn’t sending them an email or updating Facebook.

Let me just say this: pedestrians with cell phones are assholes, too. From my Murderous Commuter’s Rage files, they take three times the time necessary to get through crosswalks and step off curbs without checking. I watched a man walk full-on into a lamp post last week, and now I say hello every time I pass my new buddy Darwin (the pole, not the dipshit).

What bothers me the most, though, is that these head-down lemmings alter the entire sidewalk’s flow. When I am approaching someone on foot, I naturally alter my direction slightly so that we’ll slide past one another. I expect the same aware courtesy of my fellow walkers, but when some oncoming mouth-breather has his face in his iPhone, this natural order is upset. He drifts back and forth like a slow-motion squirrel in the street. I can’t figure out which direction he’s about to go because he hasn’t decided yet, and I find myself zigging and zagging trying to anticipate how to not be in this person’s same lane of traffic by the time we reach each other.

At least, that’s what I did before I lived in London last year. Sorry, New York, I know you’ve been trying to ban this practice for years (bravo!), but even the City that Never Sleepwalks can’t hold a candle to English people when it comes to barreling around without any shred of regard for your fellow man. And so now, I’m here to warn you, my reaction to people concentrating on cyberspace when they should be paying attention to meatspace, is the same method I use when a double-wide family of tourists is blocking up the entire sidewalk and gawking over the big stone buildings. I just stop walking and wait.

Only twice has this led to people actually running into me. I assume this is because I don’t pretend to be doing something else, but instead glare with undying hatred at the person who thinks so little of my presence on Earth that they robbed me of the ability to be polite to them. So maybe people run into poles but sense some kind of Disturbance in the Force ahead when I’ve stopped and set my shoulder. Either way, wake the fuck up and walk.

The Management requests that you temporarily ignore fellow passengers in this elevator the old fashioned way.

5. Gah! … it’s an ad.

I’m not sure how many people are really responsible for this one, so I’m speaking to anyone anywhere who ever meets a radio advertiser, and asking sincerely that you kick them in the balls repeatedly. Yes, I’m assuming most of them are men. It’s possible that this is because I’ve seen too much Mad Men, or because I tend to listen to sports talk radio in the car. But kick them once for unoriginality, once for fake accents, and a third time just because the medium doesn’t support swimsuit models.

Maybe I actually need to be talking to the people at the radio stations who sell the time, who are the folks enabling horrible advertising. New invention idea: little black boxes to give your listeners (there could be an app for that) which are synched to your advertising schedule. It only needs one button, which would be labeled, “Right now a commercial unleashed by you is making my ears bleed. I am actively less intelligent because I didn’t get to the station change button fast enough.” That would serve as a little focus group for you. For starters, we could pretty quickly sweep away any commercials with 1) children singing, 2) hackneyed sports analogies, and 3) any small business owners who think they should be describing their own business, instead of a paid actor.

While we’re on the subject, why is it that you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater, but it’s perfectly fine to start a radio commercial with a police/fire siren? Public service spots, my ass. Very few things in this life inspire the instantaneous mixture of terror and homicidal rage in me like the blared sounds of emergency, especially when I’m driving at night. Ban that. Thanks.

Radio: the one wordy profession where you don’t have to know your ass from your homophone.

Obviously, this list is not exhaustive, but perhaps we stop before it gets exhausting. Change is easier to handle in small bites, when we’re talking about friendship and not piranha. And because I’m your friend: what else needs to make my list? You can be straight with me. I can take it.

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