Sunday, June 28, 2009

I hope I annoy you as much as you annoy me

Many people are recipients of transient hateful juju from me in the course of daily life. There's the twit in the grocery line who waits until the clerk announces a total before they even begin to look for their wallet, surprised (again!) by the need to pay for the stuff. There are the hosers who can't figure out how a 4-way stop is supposed to work. And dimwits who talk in a movie theater like they're sitting in their living room. All these primitive forms of life get just a fleeting moment of being despicable to me. But there is a special category of annoyer for whom I generate hour upon hour of fresh brewed hatefulness - the person sitting next to me in an airplane.

There must be no common life situation that creates more consistent dissatisfaction than air travel. Let's face it, every aspect of it sucks hard. Having to ride shuttle buses or return rental cars, schlepping bags around, worrying about your 3 ounce fluids, standing in the ticket line, standing in the security check line, fighting through piles of baggage to get a spot in the airport bar, weather delays, no room in the overhead bins - it's just a cornucopia of irritation, and all that before you even get to your seat. And then when you finally do make it to your seat, there's that person (or if you're in the dreaded middle seat, two persons) who have been assigned by God to be my nemesis - the Person Sitting Next To Me. The PSNTM. I hate you.

There have been rare exceptions to the "I hate the PSNTM" rule. Family, mostly, but a few times a person who was actually thoughtful, friendly, and smelled okay, as well as capable of conversation. Otherwise, the PSNTM is a universal cipher, a person just taking up space (especially on the arm rest) and being one of several annoying things:
  • (a) too fussy, ringing the flight attendant constantly
  • (b) too fidgety, some kind of tweaker who can't sit still
  • (c) too out of it, verging on comatose, sleeping with their head on my shoulder
  • (d) too friendly, trying to talk to me when I don't care
  • (e) not friendly enough, acting like they don't care when I try to talk to them
OK, PSNTM, some part of me knows you are an actual human being who has a family, who has wants and needs, a life outside the airplane, in fact a person who may be delightful to know, a charmer, a mensch, a person I would love to have as a cherished friend. But as long as you are the PSNTM I hate you. The best you can ever be to me is a minor annoyance. It could be Ghandi next to me - just another irritating PSNTM. And hey, Mahatma, your newspaper is infringing into my tray table space, shape up. (Note: if I have met you in the airport bar before boarding, and if you flirted with me (females only, thanks), you may be something better than a minor annoyance. No other exceptions will be made.)

I understand and accept that for the PSNTM I am the PSNTM. I understand and accept that on any given flight I may be (a) (b) (c) and/or (d) and maybe (e) and other letters for the PSNTM. Someday, when I become enlightened, I may not intrinsically hate the PSNTM. And I hope everyone else becomes enlightened and no longer hates me for being the PSNTM. I will keep that hope alive, but I will not hold my proverbial breath.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The King is dead, long live the King

OK, I just turned on the TV and Larry King is getting reactions to Michael Jackson's death by interviewing Jesse Jackson and Donna Summer. I mean, that puts it all in context, you know? I can't wait to hear who's next. Can I?

OK, take two. This week, three celebs have passed on - Ed MacMahon, Farrah Fawcett and now Jacko. It's snarky to be rude to the dead, but if we're honest here, we're talking about three iconic pop culture figures who were sharing about 1.3 person's worth of talent. Ed McMahon was a lovable guy who's only real talent was being in the right place at the right time - that is, connected to Johnny Carson when Johnny hit the big time. And Farrah's biggest talent was the ability to grow a nice head of hair. Ok, she was a hottie in her time, and I had her poster on my wall like 92% of the rest of male America at that time, but she couldn't act, or sing, or dance her way out of the proverbial paper bag. She may have been, the least talented of the original "Charlie's Angels"and that's no mean feat. She may also have been one of the first truly talentless celebrities, a category that is now filled to the brim with the empty suits of reality TV, one trick ponies, and random nimrods having their fifteen minutes of fame.

OK, take three. Michael Jackson did have that special something that makes someone a star. He was magnetic from the age of 11. You wanted to watch him dance and hear him sing. And he took that gift and over 10 years turned it into something kind of sick and perverted and weird. And then over the next 20 years he went from kinda weird to seriously weird and then spun off out of normal earth orbit into the realm of Howard Hughes and Elvis and Elizabeth Taylor and the other elitely freakishly rich and famous, (Note to self: Quit wishing to be freakishly rich and famous.) You lost me, Michael, about 1975, but I hope you RIP. Perhaps you had too much talent to ever be really meaningful, really good, really happy. Anything that comes too easy is not worth having.

Ok, take four. All these people were just doing the best they could. They gave us some pleasure and to some degree suffered, along with prospered, as a result of the personalities they became. Being famous is not an easy gig. Making a lot of money does not offset the psychological damage.

OK. Take five. I have mourned this. Let's move on. How do you think Shaq will fit on with LeBron on the Cavs?...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

How my vanity may have saved my life, or at least made it a lot better

Resolved: I am vain. I readily admit to being "excessively concerned of (my) own appearance." I have, for as long as I can remember, wanted to look good. Maybe being a kid who got called "fatty" when I was little contributes to placing an importance on looking good. Or maybe it's my general and ongoing need for approval. In any case, I am vain and I try to make myself look as good as I can.

Resolved: I have a lot of moles. The brown spots on your skin, not the little varmints under the lawn. You can't choose the distribution of your pigment, so what are you going to do? But moles are more than just blips on the radar, they can be annoying to shave around, and as time passes they can get bigger or hairier or just sort of more noticeable in a negative way.

All that said, a few weeks back I started noticing a small mole up near my left eye. It seemed to look different than it once did, and maybe a little inflamed. So being vain, I called up the dermatologist at my HMO and asked if they would snip it off for me.

The doctor checked out this thing (not a mole actually but some other kind of skin thing) and said sure, I'll get rid of it, and no, it's not anything to worry about. But he also wanted to give me the once over, and when I took off my shirt he spotted a couple of moles that looked suspicious. Out came the tools and a few minutes later he's cut one off my abdomen and one off my back. He tells me they are probably nothing but he will call if there's any trouble.

I didn't think much of it. I have never been a big sunbather, and having a couple of funny looking moles out of my crop of dozens, maybe hundreds - well, odds are there are going to be some that look funny. That doesn't mean I've got anything wrong with me. Does it?

Phone rings while I am vacationing in New York. Doctor tells me the biopsy says the mole on my abdomen is a melanoma. He tells me it should be ok, it's been caught early, no chemo needed, but he needs to take a pound of flesh to make sure it's all gone. (Ok, he didn't say a pound of flesh but I have to use my drama major knowledge for obscure references now and then.) So just like that, I have cancer. I am reading things about "survival rates" and whatnot. As the song says, what a difference a day makes.

Melanoma is caused by UVA and UVB rays - they think. But it's also possible to get it in places that never get any sun. Some people say even one really bad sunburn as a kid can set you up for this cancer later. I definitely had a few sunburns over the years - maybe you did too.

Melanoma is the worst type of skin cancer. If you don't get it early, it can burrow down and get you into all kinds of trouble. Odds are I will be fine and this will not be the thing that kills me. But it does feel like the Grim Reaper sort of waved at me from across the room.

Moral of the story #1: Check yourself.
Moral of the story #2:
If I had not been vain and wanted to get a blip off my face, this cancer could have gone unnoticed for a long time - maybe too long. So maybe being vain is not the worst thing in the world?