Friday, February 29, 2008

I Have A Permanent Face-ache But It Pays the Bills, or Dark Tales from the “Synergy Lab”

My face hurts.

I’m not trying to be funny and I’m not trying to make a self-deprecating dig at myself, so do us both a favor and please spare me the requisite smartass "Yeah it does!"

Because it literally hurts.

In fact, I can’t believe I’m even able to write this. I’ve got a dull ache in my forehead that sort of extends its mean little arms back to my mid-head. I want to rub my temples or look up at the sky or go chill out in a dark closet about every 2-3 minutes.

And you wanna know why? It’s because I have a fucking desk job. Yeah… one of those. The kind you don't necessarily dream about as a kid. All day long I get paid to sit in a faux-leather (ok, it’s vinyl) chair and stare at a computer screen. Well, I take that back, it’s not all day long, and I'm not really staring. I'm writing emails and g-chatting and making important decisions about what my Facebook picture should be.* I get up to pee, and to heat up my lunch, and to wander. But in between bathroom breaks I’m at a damn screen. Waiting for something great to happen.

And it seems my workplace hazards seem to finally be catching up with me. I’m actually looking away from the glow of my janky Dell screen (talk about hazard, right?) right now, my eyes darting around the room. Doing my best to let my fingers do the talking.** I feel like a little bird sitting on its perch trying to tie a piece of ribbon in a bow without the luxury opposable thumbs, simultaneously trying to stay aware of bigger enemy birds that might come harm me.

Uh-oh, not looking at the screen is distracting.

Ha. I just noticed I have yogurt on my shoe. Gross.

I’m not the only one who has to deal with the very monotonous problem of the desk job. I think most of you reading this probably have one, too, and for that I am truly sorry. I pity you almost as much as I pity myself…and that’s a lot. The corporate world is not only ruining our visual and orthopedic health, it is also damaging our ability to focus, and forcing us to create imaginary places in our minds where we can run to escape from the doldrums of the 3:00-5:00pm stretch of afternoon.

Places like the Synergy Lab.

Ok, so maybe you haven’t imagined this place. You haven’t imagined it because it’s real.

And I’ll hedge my bet is as scary as it sounds...

You see, the corporate world has built up an arsenal of awful buzzwords and tools that most of us eventually get used to. Those tools are things like Outlook Express, meetings planned for the sole purpose of planning meetings, and phrases like “Per John, we unfortunately must reschedule our previously rescheduled meeting. I'm retarded.” I’m pretty used to all that bullshit, so it’s fun for me whenever discover new and terrible businessy things.

You can imagine my delight when I was at Disney for a meeting on Tuesday. If you really care about what happened there I can send you the follow-up notes I took and subsequently emailed to my "internal team." But you're not going to be impressed. Instead I'll tell you about the one shocking, horrifying moment of the two and a half hour afternoon...

In the course of the business discussion (that I of course was not a part of because what do I know and fuck if I care), my patience was admittedly wearing thin. And then out of nowhere I hear the woman across the table say something along the lines of: "Blah blah blah, we've been discussing strategy with our retail placement team, and they just got back from a week in the Synergy Lab, blah blah blah..."

Hold on just one second lady.... Did you say Synergy Lab? SYNERGY LAB?!!!

She said it like it was nothing! I looked around the room, again my eyes moving frantically. Up popped the scene from Office Space on the movie screen in my mind where those terrible efficiency consultants come into Initech to teach all the droning, miserable employees about the benefits of inter-office teamwork.

Ew. Teamwork. Now there's something that'll make your face hurt.

Am I the only one who thinks this term is like, over the top white-collar nonsense?

I hope not.

No one has all the answers, and we're all just living our own really messed up version of The Dream. I don't know what I want to do with my life. I don't know what my next job will be. I don't know when I'll have kids, or buy a house. I don't know what my "strategy" is.

But I know I sure as shit won't figure it out in any damn Synergy Lab.

Yeah, fuck that. I just need my face to stop hurting.

*One could argue this is akin to updating one's resume. Facebook is a important "business tool."

**I’m also congratulating myself because it’s surprising how accurately I can type when I’m not looking. Thank you, Mavis Beacon!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Just the Cons of Online Dating, or My Toxic Love Affair With Los Angeles

So Valentine's Day is over (thank you Jesus), but similar to the effects of the atom bomb, the fallout is still killing people.

Not me, obviously. I'm totally happy and well adjusted. I meant other people...

Can any of us remember Hiroshima? Likely not, but I do remember the last 2 weeks of AP History like it was yesterday, and I can recall learning that the worst part of the bomb wasn't the the explosion itself, but the radiation related illness that pretty much ruined peoples' lives for decades to follow.

Well, if cell mutation and subsequent tissue degeneration killed the Japanese, eHarmony is the post-Valentine's day radiation poison that is killing Americans.

You've seen those damn catchy commercials... The "regular" folks* who found a way to finally take a bite of the carrot we're all chasing. They make kissy faces at each other while Natalie Cole sings an uplifting, piano driven song I know for a fact appeared in Lindsay Lohan's version of The Parent Trap. I can't be the only one who noticed this. This fact alone should turn about a million people away from the site. Lindsay Lohan is like Satan's good luck charm. Anything even distantly related to that train-wreck of a harlot is a giant, blinking neon warning sign.

Come on eHarmony. How dumb do you think America is?

Please don't answer that...

Trouble is, despite how annoying and life-sucking those commercials are, they offer the promise of the New American Dream, or what we think we're all entitled to, which is no longer a house, 2.5 kids, and a pension. Nowadays el numero uno seems to be a healthy relationship.** I mean, even I, the very picture of how singlehood gives us strength, fall victim to their web of lies.

Yes, even the mighty do fall...

So part of this year's V-Day aftermath (get it - sounds like D-Day!) was a piqued interest in what the world of online dating actually has to offer. Since living in LA can more or less be equated to eating, breathing, and sleeping alone every night in a large cave made of concrete and empty In-N-Out boxes, and like the rest of my generation I have what some would call a juvenile sense of entitlement, I took it upon myself to do a little research project to examine the potential benefits and pitfalls of eHarmony.

I won't bore you with the details of how the poorly thought-out mechanics of eHarmony work. But to summarize, somehow Cupid's little minions running site manage to get you to bare your soul to a cyber-sea full of strangers with the unrealistic expectation that everyone is actually telling the truth. Instead of going off on an angry tangent here, I will share with you what I learned from my short lived experience poking around on eHarmony.

I concluded that despite the fact (if you can call it a fact) that perhaps there are Pros to eHarmony and some people do find "true love" on the internet there are some very real Cons every person must face who joins eHarmony:

Con #1 to Joining eHarmony: You've just joined eHarmony.

Congratulations, you've just admitted that you are dissatisfied with your life.

Con #2 to Joining eHarmony: There is no place for real honesty on eHarmony.

The multiple choice format of the initial questions one sends to one potential date offers little to no room for a legitimate peek into the soul's window. How the eff am I supposed to know how many kids I'm gonna want to have? 1? 2? 8? There's no multiple choice answer that says "It depends on how fat I get after the first one."

Con #3 to Joining eHarmony: You will receive an influx of emails that resemble spam.

Most of us got gmail not only for the ease and convenience of its inbox's conversational format, but also for its exceptional spam blocker. If it's hard enough to resist purchasing "$uper! Che@p VIAGRA Direct TO Your housE!!" then you know it's just going to be a gigantic waste of time when you find yourself sitting at work browsing email after email from other single-and-desperate-but-interested-in-you people. That is, assuming your really honest profile - or let's face it, your profile picture - generates any significant interest.

Con #4 to Joining eHarmony: What happens if you are matched with someone you already know?

Really though... what happens? You're cruising for dudes (or chicks...whatever, I don't judge) one night when suddenly you realize that your trusty Internet matchmaker has set you up with like, your friend's roommate. Instantly your cover is blown! The cat's out of the bag! That person, whether they were destined to be your true love or not, now knows your dirty little secret and you've just jeopardized your reputation as everyone's favorite single-and-loving-it friend. To clarify, that secret would be the fact that you are online dating. Why would you ever tell anyone?...

I could go on, but the list would get muddy with me waxing bittersophical, so I'll spare you. I have no plans to join eHarmony, not even under an alias, which means that any dating I do will have to come about organically. So as far as meeting me online, well, you can just forget about that.

Bottom line: When it comes to online dating with eHarmony, I think does more eHarm than good.

*I know what you're thinking. Don't be ashamed, you can think it. I really meant the "ugly" folks.

**Take a look around... no one's relationship is healthy.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Freeway Driving and the Importance of Fraud Protection, or Things are Not Always As They Seem

I'll start this entry with this:

I was driving on the 405.

Right away you should know that something bad, or at the very least unpleasant, is about to happen.

I was driving on the 405, leaving the pitiful depths of what Southern Californians call The Valley - note the capital The, as if the notion that there might be another valley chilling out somewhere in the world is completely preposterous - when I saw a cop car driving up ahead of me.

Or at least I thought it was a cop car.

I was speeding, as per usual. Whether the day has been long or short, good or just okay, when you live in the land of the lost* at no point in time is driving ever in the least bit enjoyable. Being in one's car, like suffering the bitter taste of Thera-flu or giving birth, is without question a Machiavellian means to an end; that end in this case being my sofa. That said, upon seeing said cop car I instinctively brought my speed down to the comfortable 5 mph over the limit, using the faulty logic that it's better to be just a teeny bit in violation because the act of reducing my speed to the actual limit might draw more attention to myself than staying above it and therefore increase my likelihood of being pulled over.**

Luckily it seemed to work. Score: Lisa - 1, Cop - 0.

That's right, fuck the po-lice.

At 75 mph I was steadily approaching the car from behind, when I noticed through his translucent rear window that the officer (or whoever it was) driving the car had on his head what looked to be the outline of a suspicious looking trucker hat.

Hmm. Cops don't wear trucker hats, I thought.

I increased my speed.

Coming up on him a bit quicker now on the alleged cop car, I then saw that the alleged cop was yacking away on a cell phone. This guy was growing more suspect by the second. First a trucker hat, now a cell phone? Is Paris Hilton a cop now? What the eff, man...

Well, apparently not.

As soon as I got parallel with this donkey punch of a police officer, I saw that he wasn't a police officer at all. It was just some dude, driving cholo-style - you know, leaning back in his seat with one hand on the steering wheel, lookin all fly n'shit - in a car that only looked like a cop car. Low and behold, there was no official police insignia painted on the side door. It was merely the shell of what may have at one point been a vehicle of the law, but was now a vehicle of my own frustration.

I resumed my normal I'm-on-my-way-home-get-the-fuck-out-of-my-way cruising speed and observed the poseur in my rear view mirror. After completing what I could only assume was a drug deal on his cell phone, he proceeded to just fuck with people on the freeway! He'd get really close to whoever was in front of him, as if he was going to pull them over, and then zip away. Just like that! I was as much amused as I was annoyed. Who did this guy think he is? A cop, I guess...

Seriously though, what a shithead.

With all the talk these days of identity theft this and fraud protection that, it made me wonder who else out there is lying to me. Does the clerk at the grocery store really want me to have a good day? Are the Baristas at Starbucks really all that concerned about making my drink extra hot? Does the guy who gets your number at the bar ever call? Likely not.

I mean, according to Kinsey everyone is a little bit gay, so under that same theoretical paradigm isn't everyone just a little bit phony?


Because I know that as much as I care for my fellow human beings, I don't really care if the grocery store clerk is having a good day. And when I worked at Starbucks I sure as shit didn't worry my mind over the temperature of my customers' precious double-tall-half-caf-extra-hot-non-fat-soy-no-foam lattes. And you know that guy at the bar who thinks he has my number? Yeah, it wasn't really my number.

But the guy on the 405 with the trucker hat driving the faux cop car?

That guy is a douche bag.

*Some like to call it Los Angeles, which is Spanish for "get me the fuck out of here."

**This, of course, doesn't ever happen and I'm almost pretty sure that speed limits are actually in the best interest of drivers, and the public at large.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day Can Suck a Fat One, or "I Can't Love You If You Beat Me"

DISCLAIMER: Ok. I've been stuck working in Las Vegas for what's coming up on 7 days now, and I'm officially over it, so please take anything I say tonight completely seriously.

I will never like Valentine's Day.

There, I said it. 

What, you don't believe me? You think that someday God is going to show up to his local Wal-Mart, pick up a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul, read it cover to cover and then decide to make my heart-of-stone his community service project? You think I'm going to fall totally in love with some guy and then forget about the last twenty-some-odd years of my life? 

Fat fucking chance.

I can't think of a time that I haven't completely loathed Valentine's Day. Even in third grade it was a piece of shit disappointment. Try explaining the unfairness of the universe and the intangibility of emotional satisfaction in twenty words or less to the little girl who year after year got the "LET'S BE FRIENDS" candy hearts from the boy(s) she had crushes on in class. 
Yeah. No one could. It sucked then, and what's even suckier is that it contrary to popular belief (or at least the asshats I've been talking to) it doesn't get any better.

To think that a sane person could somehow start loving Valentine's Day simply because they've found romantic fulfillment (or at least consistent sex with someone who knows their date of birth and/or last name), is as off-base as thinking that the woman who struggled through cancer would make it to remission... only to celebrate Cancer Day. Or that the child who grew up in an abusive household could forget about how shitty his parents were because they got smart and gave up the drugs and the yelling or whatever....only to celebrate Shitty Parents' Day. 

It's just retarded, and you shouldn't think it.

The same is true with Valentine's Day. I'm hereby declaring it impossible for a normal human being to love something that caused them years of pain. I refuse to pretend otherwise, and I apologize in advance to the man I will someday love...

Honey, if you're reading this, I promise to never do anything special for you on Valentine's Day. 

I will, however, do everything in my power to make you happy, to take care of you, to protect your feelings, to fulfill your sexual desires, and to love you recklessly until I die.