Just my thoughts. I'm sure you have your own.

Friday, May 30, 2008

May 30, 2008

Beach Boys Rock... enough said...

I could get into a lengthy argument over musical technique over greatness, but I don't feel like it. I'm listening to "When I Grow Up" and finally calming down from a frustrating morning. That's all that matters to me, right now.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

May 29, 2008

This has irritated me for some time. There's a commercial put out by Vonage, the phone company, that has basically numbed me from ever going with that company, even if they were giving away free phone service for life.

The commercial starts off with a guy from "The Phone Company" (You ever notice how, for whatever reason, telecommunication companies almost ALWAYS have commercials that look like political smear campaigns?). He tells us, the viewer, "Don't listen to Vonage." Then before giving us any reason to listen to his argument, the most snobbish woman in history pushes him to the left side of the screen and interrupts him, saying "Well over 2 million people have switched to Vonage." She says this in a tone of voice as if you expect her to also say "Nyah nyah!". Not only is this childish, but also rude, as I was still listening to the first guy. If you expect us to go with YOUR company, at least let the competitor state his side.

Next, the guy tries to get back toward the center of the screen, but the girl refuses--in essence, trapping him off to the left. In my mind, this is the equivalent of pushing someone out of line and refusing to let them back in where they were. The woman then challenges the guy, asking how much they charge, where he finally starts his argument. She then interrupts him AGAIN, stating how Vonage is superior. You know, in the court of law, if the prosecutor keeps interrupting the defense, they probably would be disciplined by the judge in some way.

Finally, and this is the final straw to me, the guy states, "For over 100 years, the only thing we've changed..." where the woman, a third time, interrupts him by saying "is your prices?" before hipchecking him off the screen for good. I'm a very non-violent person by nature, but I almost feel like slapping her every time I see that commercial.

Again, this is rude. Second, she sounds like a 6-year-old in a "I know you are but what am I" kind of way. Third, she's spinning what he says all around--he never stated anything like that. He may have a valid point against Vonage that I need to hear, but nooooo... we won't hear THAT here. Vonage's message to me is this: "Sign up with us--we're far superior to others because we don't listen to them and you shouldn't either." On the other hand, Progressive Insurance openly states that they'll help you shop around for the best deal.

Also, you generally want likeable qualities to be present in your spokespeople. Some are humorous (Budweisers' Real Men of Genius, for instance). Some are funny in a cute sort of way, such as GEICO's gecko. This woman just comes across elitist, high-minded and snobbish. Generally, if you want to attract someone to your company, these are qualities you do NOT want. The only demographic I could see this appealing to are snobbish preppies from school, who, mind you, probably think that the whole situation is funny because they do that to people every day in their lives anyhow.

I just hate that dumb commercial.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

May 28, 2008

Hiatus semi-over. I'll still post my editorials on here as I get them, but I thought I'd also turn the blog into a One-A-Day thought...um... online Diary thingie. Some of these thoughts are meant to be humorous, tongue-in-cheek, and, well, unabashedly silly. Others are quite serious and possibly ponder-worthy. Mostly, however, these are just my meandering thoughts. I'll try to post them early in the day before the drudges of work wash me over and every single post ends up, "Why must we have to work...etc..."

This morning, my wife and I watched a show while we were getting ready for the day that I hadn't seen a full episode of in a really long time--Home Improvement. As sad as the fact remains, though I haven't really watched the show in almost, or even over, a decade, I still remembered how the episode usually turned out.

The point, though, was that the impression that I got about the show felt different now that I'm an adult with a job, family, and life than it did when I was a youth-turning-to-teen. At that time, I viewed the show as it was billed--a family-based sitcom with a caring, but oftentimes slow-to-the-starting-line parental head. It was humorous and lighthearted. I still viewed it that way today, but the show came across more innocent and nuclear family, about like every other 90's TV show.

Now I don't watch many sitcoms today. Haven't really been a regular viewer of one since the 90's, so I can't be an authority of the attitude, style, or 'message' of modern shows. However, most late 80's and 90's TV family-based sitcoms were of the 'After School Special' persuasion. In other words, each episode (or, whether or not the message was big enough, series of episodes) was presented with a problem or issue that would come up, and the characters (The Taylor Family) would reach the conclusion by the end of the episode, showcasing for the audience at home how to either deal with the problem should it arise or to provide a model for the family in general.

As cheesy as some of the episodes were, I kind of miss that 'feeling' of a series--the feeling that, by the time you're done watching the episode, you feel a little bit better about your lot in life, and not because you just watched somebody who was far off worse than you. Like I said, I don't watch much TV in general outside of cartoons (I've grown up a lot, huh?). However, just by watching commercials and seeing front pages of magazines on stands at the grocery store and whatnot, I can tell what the general desire for people to watch would be. During the 80's and 90's, the sitcom reigned supreme--I remember, I was there. However, what seems to have ruled this decade with a much stronger grip than the sitcom is the 'gripping drama'. Think of the 20-or-so spinoffs of "C.S.I.", all of the crime/detective shows, the medical dramas (save Scrubs... that's actually a pretty funny show), and so forth. Look at the movies that are hitting theaters. They either are obnoxiously stupid or... 'Gripping Dramas'. (Cleverly disguised, of course, as either Horror Movies, Chick Flicks, or Superhero Epics--but basically, that's the general genre.) In fact, most popular series today resemble Soap Operas more than they resemble sitcoms, even if the hint or even spice of humor is involved.

So, perhaps, this is the reason why the average person or family is in a slump today. Sure, money's tight and gas is expensive. But, ya know, money has always been kind of hard to come by. Maybe one of the factors is that, when we go home to 'relax' in front of the TV, we're actually feeding our minds with negative things--murder victims, failed surgeries, broken homes and relationships.

Sure, arguers will say "Well, tough cookies, guy... This is reality." Well, guess what? We get enough of 'reality' at work and our day-to-day lives. If you make burgers all day for work and absolutely hate it, how many times are you going to be going home from work and say, "You know what I want? A Hamburger." Just because the shows portray reality doesn't mean we have to subject ourselves to more negative issues over and again. Maybe it isn't unrealistic to be a little optimistic about things. Is it really living in "La La Land" (A place I really would be interested in visiting one day) if we expect that, maybe once, everything will turn out alright in the end, with everything going right for the hero? Would it be TOO much to ask to perhaps have a show that makes us feel safe in our own homes, rather than playing off of the fears of the paranoid?

I mean, come on people. I'm sick of reading of murders in the paper--why are you forcing me to read about fictitious murders on TV?

Eh, just my thoughts.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Welcome to the World of Customer Service

[The following post was originally posted in 2007 on the message boards for www.macclenny.com. The events in the following article actually happened and honestly have not been embellished, though it would have been quite funny to do so just a little. I work in the banking industry, if anybody cares...]

We’re all pretty familiar with the concept. We have a problem with something, such as a computer or a service, and so we need to get help from a representative of said service. Already, those of you familiar with the Customer Service routine can see a flaw in the above equation. Representative being that flaw.

Now this is not a complete across-the-board deal, wherein every single CSR we deal with is inept and lacking basic common sense. In fact, working with business-oriented companies (who tend to have a slightly higher degree of competency in their representatives) rarely puts me in insanity’s path. But there have been obvious exceptions, or else I wouldn’t be writing this.

(At this point, I’m going to assume if there are any readers who are, indeed, Customer Service Representatives (CSR) of any kind that they do make up the exception and do not reflect the following descriptions. However, you may very well be such, to wit, please do not work for a company I will eventually call for help. Thank you.)

I’ve also learned, at least in the business world (although I’m sure this is a global rule too), that if a company is either government-run or –funded, then their comprehension abilities would be about two points above a piece of granite. The following will be a classic example, as what happened to me today.

(Names have been removed/changed to protect the stupid.)

Part of my responsibilities where I work involve transferring files to vendors and making sure they not only receive them, but that their services with us ‘work’. The following conversation took place today:

Me: (Makes first call)

Company: Thank you for calling [Company Name]. Our number has recently changed. Please hang up and call 1-800-###-####.

Me: (Kind of weirded out that they actually asked me to “hang up” and call this number, but does so anyhow. Makes second call.)

Company: Thank you for calling [Company Name]. (Normal schpiel about pressing one and two and three, until they get to zero for operator).

Me: (Presses 0).

Company: (an actual person). Thank you for calling [Company]. How can I help you today?

Me: Hi, my name is Daniel with [My company]. Our contract ID is #####. I have a question concerning a file we transfer to you.

Company Rep 1: What was that Contract ID again?

Me: #####

Rep 1: Hmm. That doesn’t seem to fit, what I need is a four digit number, a dash, and another digit.

Me: (Pause. That equals 5 digits… like I’m giving you… Oh well). Oh, well, I don’t have a number that matches that. Can you look us up by name?

Rep 1: (frustrated sigh) Sure, what was that name?

Me: [My company, again…]

Rep 1: Hold on. (The very hated hold music. I’m afraid I’ll never talk to her again. Two minutes later, she surprisingly comes back on) Ok, I have your information here. How can I help you, again?

Me: (sigh) I need to speak to someone in file transmissions that handle (file type), please.

Rep 1: (file type) department? I think that’s handled by (another person).

Me: Oh yeah, I’ve talked to her before.

Rep 1: Great. Do you need her number?

Me: Yes, that would be great.

(Rep 1 proceeds to give me her number. I take it down and thank her, hanging up)

Me: (Makes Third Call to woman who can hopefully help me. Get her voicemail—she’ll be out all week. Her message gives me her department’s number, but says it so fast I have to call back two more times to write it all down. Meanwhile, she has 3 voicemail messages from me that are just the sound of the phone hitting the cradle. Makes Fourth Call to the number she left me! (keep that in mind.) )

Company: Thank you for calling … (Automated Message #3, by the way. I get to press 0 eventually)

Rep 2: Thanks for calling [Company]. My name is [Person]. How can I help you today?

Me: Hi, yes, I was hoping to speak to someone in (type of file) department.

Rep 2: (type of file)? I’ve never heard of that before.

Me: (Isn’t this the number the lady gave me?) [Spells it out, describing the file and the department I need, along with the problem—that their system is not updating their information included on the file].

Rep 2: Could you please hold? I’ll call tech support.

Me: Ooooo-k.

(Fast-Forward: She proceeds to give me the play-by-play, letting me know every 20 seconds [separated by hold music] that she tried ‘this person’ and ‘that person’, but she keeps getting voice mail. [Current running time for project: 8 minutes.] She comes back on.)

Rep 2: Is this file sent to our Wisconsin branch or our Texas Branch?

Me: (The heck should I know?!) I’m not sure. I just upload the file to your website through a secure FTP.

Rep 2: (sigh) Hold on. (The music. I think of screaming. I think of hanging up. I think many other things in the time I listen to an easy jazz version of the Carpenters: “We’ve only just begun to live.” Running time: 12 minutes.) Alright, it looks like this is handled in Texas. I’ve got [Name] from Tech Support here to help you, ok?

Me: (Tech Support? Alright! This is, no doubt, who I need to speak to) Great! Thank you.

Rep 2: (Click for transfer)

Rep 3: Hi, this is [name]. I hear you’re having problems logging on to our site?

Me: (Stunned for about 3 full seconds here. Did this woman pay any attention to me earlier?) Hi. Um, no. I can log on just fine. In fact, I just sent the file successfully yesterday through your [website] FTP upload.

Rep 3: Oh. Hm, ok, then.

Me: Yeah, the problem I was having though is that I think the information on your side isn’t getting updated.

Rep 3: Ok. What was the file again?

Me: [file type and department it goes to and all other relevant information (not playing around this time)].

Rep 3: And that’s updated using the [website] FTP, right?

Me: Yup.

Rep 3: Well, I don’t know anything about that particular file. Let me see if I can find someone in [file type department] who can help you.

Me: Ok, thanks. (Running time: Let’s just say that I started well before lunch, but I’m starting to get a little hungry. More hold music, but not as long this time)

Rep 4: Hi, this is [name], can I help you? (You know, this is a pretty big company, and I’m starting to get to know everyone on a first-name basis.)

Me: Yes, [name], my name is Daniel with [my company]. I’m looking for someone in the [file type] department with an issue we’re having.

Rep 4: Well, I handle the file transfers as they come in for [the file].

Me: (Lights flash down from the sky as I do a little victory dance). Perfect! I just need to know a little bit about how this file gets integrated into your system. I think some information is not getting updated.

We’ll break from our story here. In the process of maybe 2 minutes, he gives me a thorough explanation as far as what happens and where the problem could lie. In the process of over 25 minutes, I spoke with four humans, four machines, and my far-gone sanity. I know not everyone in the company would know every single thing, but I was hoping some basic research and common sense skills could have come into play. Especially with the one Rep who, unless I was routed to another country or something, was in the same department as the lady who had helped me before!

All in all, this is a pretty common occurrence, or so I’ve heard. Horror stories on websites and urban legends tell of much more incompetent CSRs, and I’ve had my share of them, too. Another company I deal with gives me a sales pitch about the product we already have of theirs whenever I need help with something that has nothing to do with it.


Me: I need to know how often this service gets updated?

Rep: Well, the [service] is a state-of-the-art procedure in handling [procedures, jobs, financial capabilities, etc. etc. etc. for about 3 minutes.]

Me: Uh-huh. That’s great. Sooo… it gets updated…when?

I know I could go on and on with examples, situations, flow charts and the like describing how companies in general fall well short of meeting what the end-user (customer) feels would be appropriate CSR competency, but I’ll leave it at this. After all, these are people, and I can’t go on and on to insult them, because the blame is not entirely on their heads. Most of the time, it comes from poor training, companies that want to cut corners and get the employees they are paying right to work. These individuals are just caught in the middle of a fierce battle of wits between the customer and the corporation’s bank account. So, I offer this one paragraph of kindness and peace to the individuals I have so recently and roughly thrashed.

That doesn’t mean I take it all back, because there is something to say about wanting to do better. I just don’t want to seem like an ogre to the people where I work who call me, asking for help. See, I can sympathize.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

5 Reminders for Macclenny Drivers, Part 3

[The following editorial was originally posted on www.macclenny.com forum boards in December of 2006. It was third of a 3-part series about how the increase of population in a small, country town had directly led to an increase of careless driving by many. As the previous posts, the audience was specified to the residents of the town of Macclenny, but any small town, or even a larger town or city, can relate to these irks. This is the last one, I promise.

Also, even though the title is '5 reminders', there are only 4 subheadings. The title is more or less just there to link and make a continuation of the series.]

Special Edition—Driving in Parking Lots

Though it’s been a good eight or so years since I took Driver’s Ed, I seem to recall they focused most of the course on maneuvering through construction cones and, oddly enough, making sure we could turn around in the middle of the road without going off the road. (Is it just me, or was this the most unnecessary skill taught in the whole course? I mean, has anyone used this skill since?) One thing I don’t recall us going over in much detail, if at all, were the parking lot do’s-and-don’ts. This is quite ironic, because the parking lots are the most dangerous places a driver may venture; the ‘elephant graveyards’ of the open road, mind you.

Whether 16 or 60, a person can never be a master of parking lot technique. Much like golf, every single parking lot is different, with its own unique personality. Unlike golf, very impatient and haphazard individuals often frequent parking lots. Because of this uncanny fact, I have dedicated a section of my Driving Reminders series specifically to parking lots.

A World With No Home Field Advantage.
Some sports teams use that phrase for a number of reasons. Playing at ‘home’ means that there will be more fans to cheer for them than the other team. In some sports, it would mean that they’re a little bit more familiar with their environment (see golf illustration above). Mostly, though, this advantage comes from the fact that the team at ‘home’ has practiced at this same location a number of times and the players, no doubt, feel a certain comfort playing there that others wouldn’t feel. Similarly, there are some parking lots we frequent more than others, making them almost like ‘home’ to us (this would most likely include places such as work or, more commonly for some, Wal-Mart). However, when it comes to driving, there’s not much of an advantage to being at ‘home’.

For one, there are drivers who are not at ‘home’ right now, be it tourists, visitors, or the less-frequenters of the establishment. The problem with this situation is that there is no comfort that can be derived from the visitors. You may be able to navigate blindfolded, but the 3 other cars that are in motion behind and to the side of you would rather you not. You may know where all the twists and turns are, how to get to the best spots, or simply the easiest way in or out, but the Volkswagen Beetle from North Carolina may be a little miffed at you if you smoothly cruise right out in front of it, carefree as a kite-flier on… well, kite day.

There’s a corollary to this, also. How often do you go through parking lots in San Diego, California, or even really in Jacksonville for that matter? Are you at ‘home’, here? Not so much as the man who lives down the street and comes here for lunch every single day (including Sundays). If Mr. Penelo decides to non-chalantly get in your way coming in to the parking lot, you might have a few choice words for him (whether you actually say these words or not is a different matter, see below). The point here is, no matter where you are, there’s no guarantee everyone around you has as much driving finesse as you when it comes to parking lots. I sure don’t.

My Car Needs Personal Space, Too.
I went for Chinese food today, you know the place next to the [old] Wal-Mart? Getting in and out was amazingly difficult, mainly because of the Wal-Mart-is-moving-and-is-having-a-sale thing. However, I was deftly surprised how many times I had to stop or maneuver around someone blocking an entire aisle of parking spaces. I basically had to back up at one point to let a huge Ford truck (Dually, I might add) by me. This, as anyone would point out, is uncalled for.

Now, of course, some discretion is needed. For instance, if an unnecessarily long vehicle was a parking place, we may need to extend our ‘allotted half’ of the aisle a little to angle or fit in. It may even mean we’d have to go completely from the right to the left for a second. (By the way, people who drive on the left-hand side of a parking lot aisle should have their license revoked. This is not England. Thank you.) However, to basically fjord the entire lane like the Israelites going through the part in the Red Sea is a little selfish. Not only does it make others have to back up, but you basically have inhibited any other cars in front of you from accessing empty (in some cases, hard-to-find) parking spaces. Finally, you have officially blockaded a perfectly good escape route when you get to the end of the aisle; traffic is now forced to go straight. Please take a moment to make sure you are allowing plenty of room for others. It’s hard enough to find any room in a parking lot anyhow.

Doctors Are Saying We Need The Exercise, Anyhow.
I want to come right out and say that I’m guilty of this as well and that I need to work on this point just as much as the next person. Still, it’s something that should be said. Companies that design the parking lots to establishments go through a good amount of painstaking detail to design each one specifically for the business’s needs. For instance, many more people would be in Food Lion or Winn-Dixie than would be expected to be in Superior Cleaners at any given time. Therefore, the two former parking lots are larger than the latter. As we all know, there’s a limited amount of space that can be utilized, and the best way to manage it would be to build the parking spaces out, toward the road (you know, that place where the traffic is coming from). What this eventually means is, especially during busy times, we might have to park far away.

(Allow time for the reader to gasp, disbelieve, and curse the very notion)

“But that would mean we’re becoming like Orange Park, Regency, or any other area that has a mall!” Yes, readers, I know. However, Isaac Newton, among other physicists, helped us to understand that bodies of matter cannot inhabit the same space at the same time without… certain effects (namely, with cars, wrecks). Parking lots are not exempt from the laws of physics. If a store does big business, they can expect to have a lot of individuals there at once. This means they would need to accommodate for this, i.e., have more parking spaces. If there are already 40 customers there, you may need to park a little further away. Now I make these points for a couple of reasons.

One-Don’t look at me impatiently and hover around my car when I’m just walking out of the store. I may want to change the radio or put a CD in before I back out (see Reminder #8). It could be I’m out with my wife and we want to examine more closely what we bought before I get on the road. I know there are a few empty parking places somewhere in the parking lot; a little walking won’t hurt you, or else you’d have a handicap tag and be able to park closer to begin with.

Two-Don’t look at me angrily if I get to the space first. Especially if I was there first to begin with (which, in most cases, is the case). Fingers and swears just make a person look like a 5th grader all over again. What argument does someone win? It’s not like I won a competition by getting to the space first. And it’s also not likely the manager of CVS watched the whole thing and now won’t let you in on account of you “not getting the closer parking space”. In the case of CVS, not getting mad at me will save you 4 bucks on a bottle of aspirin. Just relax. Maybe you need the exercise from a farther away space to work out the anger issues.

(After those last two points, I’d think it prudent to once again mention I’m not pointing fingers at any one person or telling people how to live their lives. These are meant to be friendly suggestions… friendly, just strongly worded.)

In Case I Haven’t Made This Just Clear Enough… Just be nice.
This goes for all aspects of driving, Parking Lots or not. Stress is on the rise today. Doctors are saying it leads to sickness (lowered immune system) and blood and heart problems. I know the road is about as friendly as an old-west train robber (and I probably could draw half-a-dozen similarities off the top of my head). There’s a good chance your day was pretty lousy. Work may have been a pain, or may be a continuous pain. Perhaps you and your girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse/collection agency representative had a fight not 10 minutes before you got in your car. You haven’t eaten all day. It’s only Tuesday. There’re fifty reasons you can think of to be bitter and agonizing. If you let traffic or the idiosyncrasies of other drivers get to you, it’s not going to help your situation any more.

Just think of the positives: First of all, you’re in your own little world again, your car. Away from all of the annoying people you know and the mountains of paperwork you endure every day. You can sing showtunes during the entire trip home (I guess you know who I am driving home now). Jimmy Buffett or Steven Perry can be your traveling companions if you prefer. Especially if you have things to do when you get home, this is your break away from the world. Enjoy it. Heck, if traffic is slow moving, it just means you have more time to yourself. Even if your vehicle is a busted pile of scrap metal (much like mine is right now), it’s a little slice of paradise.

As far as the parking lot is concerned, things are moving pretty slowly, but that’s no reason to be upset. Enjoy the scenery (if available). Relax. If you haven’t gone into the store yet, enjoy the last few moments of having money. If you’re coming out, enjoy the new things that you have. If you went to pay bills, enjoy the electricity and phones that you have. If you’re in the work parking lot, enjoy the look of your place of employment getting smaller and smaller in the rear-view mirror. Just as if in traffic, on the road, or on the interstate, parking lots can be much more manageable if we all just take a breath and calm down.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

5 Reminders for Macclenny Drivers, Part 2

[The following editorial was originally posted on www.macclenny.com forum boards in December of 2006. It was the second of a 3-part series about how the increase of population in a small, country town had directly led to an increase of careless driving by many. Obviously, since the audience was for a local town, many of the references may be obscure to everyday readers, but no doubt, and especially if you come from a town in the same predicament as Macclenny, you will see some similarities around you.]

Whether it’s winter or summer, a cold and brisk morning or a hot, air conditioned noon, driving has become a necessity to almost every activity we need to do today. If it’s not at home, you need to have a vehicle of sorts to get there. This is a foreign mentality to metropolitan dwellers. Having lived in NYC for a year and a half, I never once really needed to drive anywhere; public transportation was my friend. However, coming back to my hometown proved itself to be a sober reminder of the importance of self-controlled travel. The gas prices were extra somber-ing. I guess what I’m getting at with this is: Driving is a necessity in Macclenny. People have to drive. That is a fact that cannot be changed. However, personal habits about driving may need some tweaking.

Thus I present Reminders: Part Two. As a continuation from my first five reminders, please also note the following “Good Things to Remember Whilst Driving”:

6) Intersections and the Red Sign. What is baffling is that there is only one word on that “Red Sign”. Even if you didn’t know what the word itself meant, the shape of the sign is universal for telling individuals something. Cease. Halt. Do not proceed any further. Fully administer your brakes. Do not pass GO. Certainly do not collect $200. In fact, if there’s a policeman around, you might end up forfeiting currency. “There’s no (or not much) traffic,” one reasons to himself. “Why, the mere concept of coming to a complete stop here is unnecessary.” Where the sentiment may be based on facts, that still doesn’t mean that a person should slow to half-speed and coast through in Scott Hamilton fashion. A stop is required by law, and is a courtesy to everyone else around (namely, me.) It takes all of three or four extra seconds to perform this task, I really doubt Jerry Seinfield would mind if you missed one of his jokes on his show. (It would be nice to point out at this point that Exit 335 westbound does not have a yield sign anymore. It really doesn’t matter if traffic seems a bit backed up—I’d prefer not to swerve off of the bridge to miss someone, seeing as how that’s the only place for me to go. Thank you.)

7) The Red Pill or the Blue Pill, You only get one. You remember the movie Alice in Wonderland (or for some of the younger audience members, The Matrix)? The protagonist had a choice between two separate pills. Specifically in The Matrix, Neo could only choose one. (I can’t remember if Alice had both or not, it’s been awhile). The point of this illustration is that, sometimes in life when we have two choices, common sense and decency dictates we should only make one of those. Places that have two lanes, in my honest opinion, are two separate choices. Based on our destination, it is inevitable that we would have to merge between these lanes every now and then. Usually, this should only take place in a town like Macclenny once a day. Twice at most. I think some of you see where I’m going with this. Those drivers who are pretending to be Luke, Hans, or Lando, darting in and out of traffic to make an extra 20 seconds of time, rate very high on the nuisance-o-meter. I can sympathize that you are late for work. I know that the truck in front of you is doing “10 under the speed limit”. What I care about is the fact that I’ve seen people drive more carefully on Super Mario Kart for Nintendo (see also reminder 4 from last post). None of us want to be out driving in this traffic, trust me. We’ll get out of your way—just give us a minute… and don’t drop a gigantic banana peel in my way, if you can help it.

8 ) Proper Parking Lot Etiquette. You may be surprised to learn this, but I actually do remember a time when I was not afraid to go through a parking lot. I might have even been so bold as to change the radio station or put a new CD in while moving! Now, though, much like a mouse at Pet Smart, I have to keep my alert set to 360 degrees. My only real thought about this is why on earth are people going more than 25 MPH through parking lots!? Are there people afraid that if they don’t get inside the store within the next thirty seconds that the store will sell out of the one thing they need? I literally hold my breath every time I back out of a parking place now, watching out for Mario on his Go-Kart (see above). Once again, I know everyone is in a hurry. We only have 1,440 minutes every day, and no one wants to waste one of those in a parking lot. This also goes for drivers who knowingly go the wrong way down a parking aisle to get to an open spot before others. (It’s fairly easy to tell whether you are going the wrong way—if the spots are bent away from you, requiring you to back-up and try again once or twice, you’re going the wrong way). And, of course with that said, try to park straight. Many are irritated when we “see that open spot” and rush to get there, only to see the reason it’s open is because 10% of the neighboring car is relaxing there.

9) With the patience of a kid in a candy store… Come 5 PM every day, I, like many others, find myself in a long conga-esque line of cars ranging from St. George to Gainesville. I want to get home, as does every other car in line. Statistically, more than 80% of these cars are filled with individuals also getting off from work right now. Undoubtedly, then, we are all tired and cranky, wishing to be at home in our easy chair watching Jimmy Neutron or perhaps a Reality-Based show. In fact, if Jimmy were real, he probably could concoct some sort of hover car that would allow us to get home quicker. Alas, we are bound to our normal cars and roads. Which means it will take some time to get home. So pack your favorite CDs or set the radio to your favorite music station (Might I suggest the calming 90.9 FM, for easy listening). Bring along a smooth, relaxing drink or perhaps, much like a commercial, pack a Baby Ruth or Crunch bar (so long as you aren’t eating it while in motion—see reminder #5) Think about what you’re going to do this weekend, or even this evening. Daydream about your loved ones or hanging out with your friends. Just relax. We’ll all get home soon enough, and we’d all like to get there without being in a sour mood after having people almost side-swipe us getting into traffic.

10) Above all else, just follow the signs. This is more or less for emphasis. The Florida D.O.T., to the shock and surprise of many of us, actually wants to help us and wants us to be safe. To wit, they have posted signs that, when followed, allows traffic to proceed at the swiftest and most organized method while still ensuring the safety and mental health of all drivers. So, as a gesture of kindness, even if token, try to go 45 MPH when the sign says 45 MPH. If the sign asks you to stop, please take a moment, if only for the sign. Mr. Yield would have you kindly make sure you do not inhabit the same space as another car when coming off of the (70+ MPH) Interstate. Dr. School Crossing cares about our children, and even is so nice that we only have to slow down more at certain times. Mr. Railroad Crossing, though a little more stern with his gargantuan arms, acknowledges that a 55 MPH train (weighing in at 70 billion tons) would do more than scratch our Volvo. Some of the sign community are even generous enough to let us know that we’re going to be seeing more signs soon, such as the Slow Down Ahead type sign. The signs want us to be happy, can’t we all just get along? Shouldn’t we listen to them? They’d listen to us if they had ears.

Monday, March 24, 2008

5 Reminders for Macclenny Drivers

[The following editorial was originally posted on www.macclenny.com forum boards in December of 2006. It was the first of a 3-part series about how the increase of population in a small, country town had directly led to an increase of careless driving by many. Obviously, since the audience was for a local town, many of the references may be obscure to everyday readers, but no doubt, and especially if you come from a town in the same predicament as Macclenny, you will see some similarities around you.]

It has come to the attention of many residents of Baker County that Macclenny is growing by leaps and bounds. With new stores on the front-burner, ready to be built (as well as those freshly built, such as our new Wal-Mart Supercenter), we are looking less and less like the small town, backwoods community we used to be. This has been good for many things. But, it has also brought certain unavoidable (and obvious) annoyances.

My primary annoyance is the somewhat amazing circumstance that some of Baker County's residents somehow forgot how to drive. They obviously know enough to pass the state's requirements to have a license (or did at one time). However, this would amount the knowing the different of green and red.

Now, I'm not saying everyone, or even the majority, of drivers in Macclenny are borderline maniacal. In fact, I'd even go so far to say that I encounter one or two 'sane' drivers on my way to work every morning. I know that most vehicle operators intend to drive safely and correctly, but I believe the pressures of a growing community, and subsequent growing number of cars and (especially) trucks, has caused even the levelest-headed person to become like Spongebob Squarepants driving a boat. Even I have been guilty of this from time to time. Therefore, I set aside a few minutes of my day today to compile a brief reminder to help us contemplate how we drive. And who knows--maybe this will save someone from getting a 'reckless endangerment' driving ticket.

1) Speed is relative-The signs usually help a little.
When I started driving, Highway 121 was 35 MPH all the way past US 90 and practically out to the fair grounds. Someone was kind enough to notice we have more lanes now and helped out by increasing the speed limit to 45. So class, everyone repeat with me now. ----45 MPH.---- Not 20 MPH. Not 60 MPH. Though we can easily pass or dodge to compensate for these extremes, it makes things a little easier to go if we just follow the signs. This, by extension, also includes that stretch of 121 by the schools. Did you know that it gets slower there? Amazing. Who'd have thought that places where kids cross the road multiple times throughout the day have speed decrements. The above rule can be applied here too. Best rule of thumb: watch for those white rectangular signs.

2) Lane Definitions--What the yellow lines mean.
Once upon a time, if a Macclenny driver saw yellow, it meant one of two things: A yellow light meant slow down (or speed up for some of us), and a yellow line meant "Do Not Cross" unless you are turning in to someplace on your left-hand side. Then along came the turning lane. An entire stretch of 8 to 10 feet wide concrete that drivers could actually use to prepare to turn in to a left-hand side place. However, this has obviously confused some people. For instance, the turning lane is not a PARKING SPACE. It's reasonable to expect sometimes a person has to go "half way" because of the bulk of traffic. However, much like the Basketball Shot Clock, you are expected to do SOMETHING after so long. It's a tad unreasonable if you're coming out of [the old] Wal-Mart turning left to make sure it's clear back to Waffle House before getting back into the flow of traffic. As a corollary, however, I would prefer you not pull out in front of me so that I have to (once again) test my Anti-Lock Braking System (tm). Once again, balance is needed. And for the love of God, please do not pass me in the turning lane!

3) Where the Intersection begins... Anybody?
Some have keenly observed that an intersection is actually shaped like a box. This could be perhaps those in charge of road development have actually put a box in the middle of every intersection. This may be confusing to some, so I would like to explain what this box is for. If the traffic light is red, you must stop before entering said box. This includes your tire, bumpers, and definitely the chassi of your car. Rolling stops also do not count in the big book of traffic laws (this is actually something I happen to be guilty of... bad me). The biggest occurrence of this violation come from "psychic drivers". These individuals try to "time when the lights will change". What actually ends up happening is that the driver is smack-dab in the middle of the intersection when the light DOES turn green. This is provided it does turn green and not give your adjacent associates a green arrow. Please hold one for one more parsec of a second so that you verifiably have a green light before proceeding. I, as well as the Florida State Patrollers, will be grateful.

4) Something I learned back in Kindergarten--Be Nice.
The other day I was at the intersection of Lowder and Hwy 121, in line like usual, when I noticed someone in the turn lane opposite Wachovia, wanting (what it would appear) to turn around to the other direction. Wanting to do my good deed of the day, I left enough space between me and the car in front of me so that he could squeeze in. Instead of getting in front of me, he shot over to the right (empty, because it ends right there) lane and blatantly forced himself into the other lane at the light. This, of course, was uncalled for. However, this happens in many situations around town, and even more often it would seem. Treating their vehicle much like James Bond treated his Astin Martin in every chase scene the movies portrayed, drivers hurl their cars into spaces that practically defy physics. Needless to say, Advanced Autos better stock up on brake pads over the next few years. Patience is a virtue and my horn needs a rest. Please be nice.

5) And Finally, for the love of everything Decent, PAY ATTENTION!
Put the cell phone and the Big Mac down. Leave the song alone, no matter how annoying Toby Keith is. Stop arguing with your passenger, just let her/him be right for five seconds. The piece of paper in your floorboard was there when you got in, just leave it alone for now. If you have a laptop open in the seat next to you, why are you driving to begin with? The book or newspaper will not change when you get out of your car. The witty marquee sayings aren't all that clever. The joggers are there for exercise, not for horn blowing practice. There is no life-threatening need for mints, gum, snacks, drinks, or anything that involves unwrapping, untwisting, or placing in front of your face while you open your mouth.

Just...please...pay...attention. Please.

Friday, March 21, 2008

In My Honest Opinion

Coming Soon...

Hey all, I'm just registering this blogspace ahead of time. In the next week or so, i'm migrating some satire editorials I've done about life in general. I'd like to get back into it, but also would like a nice new home for them. This page will most likely not be updated on a regular basis as my other blog, The Sorta-Motivational Poster Blog at http://sortamotivational.blogspot.com. That blog was first, and... well... kind of deserves my attention in first order. (Not to mention the idea is much cooler than dumb old editorials.) I will be posting my older 'essays' here gradually. I'll be sure to put updates on the SMP blog as they arrive.

Just stay tuned.