Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Accidental Racist

I am keenly aware of race. I always have been, and I don't know why. My family is pretty diverse, although I'm as white as you can get. Yet from the time I was very little I have always noticed race and how it affects things. When I was a kid we lived around the corner from my cousins- my father's (Daddy #2) sister's kids. They're both black (black father, Turkish mother). To this day people look at me sideways when I explain they're my cousins. As if the idea of a white kid with black cousins is preposterous. This may have put the chip on my shoulder in the first place. But for whatever the reason, I always notice racial tension and I always seem to side with whatever minority happens to be involved. Over the years my friends, particularly my black friends, have found this very funny. It does seem silly to have a white guy on the lookout for racism. If I were black I probably would have joined the Black Panthers when I was seven.

On Monday night Baby and I were in Subway (no cheap dates for bryc3, thank you very much). The kid working behind the counter was obviously in a bad mood. It looked as if nothing had been prepped, so he kept slamming things around and having to go back in the back to get stuff. I've mentioned before that I'm always nice to people working service jobs because I've been there, and it's horrible. Baby feels the same way, so we just sorta stood there and tried to make it as easy as possible on the guy. By the time he gets to us he's completely over it. He's being unprofessional and rude, but like I said we're sympathetic so we just went along.

It goes without saying that I've noticed the kid is black and he's serving two white people. If I were in his shoes, this would have pissed me off. Look, I know I'm an idiot. But it's the angry little pissant in me that gets mad about racism even though I'm white. So I completely cringe when he asks Baby, "Do you want cheese on that?" and she responds with, "Yes, White American, please." He never even pauses, but I immediately think, "Fucking whitey." And this is the woman I love.

After I pay for the sandwiches (what can I say? I'm a classy guy) and the guy goes in the back, I explain to Baby what she said and how it looked. She confirms what everyone suspects- I'm an idiot. Obviously she meant nothing by it, and obviously the guy didn't even notice. But then she starts laughing, and she tells me a story along the same lines.

Back when Baby was in college she was decorating her dorm room, and she wanted one of those reading pillows. Or at least that's what I've always called them. But apparently they're also called husband pillows. Do you know what I'm talking about? They look like this. She wanted a black one, because she's into this whole mod look. So she's with a group of her friends at the Roses department store in Fredericksburg, going through the pillow aisle looking for one. She can't find any, so she yells to her friends, at the other end of the aisle, "God damn it, I need a black husband!"

I laughed, but then I told my story.

My kid brother's nickname is "The Boy" (you might be able to see where this is going- but trust me, it's worse). I gave it to him years ago, I can't even remember why anymore. But it stuck, so he is generally referred to as that, or simply "Boy" if you're into the whole brevity thing.

The Boy and I used to work together at one of the family businesses- an electronics repair shop. One day The Boy is working behind the counter and I'm there helping him out. A black guy walks in to pick up his VCR, handing his claim check to The Boy. I volunteer to go get it from the back, in the storage room behind the counter. But when I get back there I realize there are three or four very similar models and I'm not sure which one is his. I'm too lazy to walk all the way back out, so I simply go over to the doorway between the two rooms to ask The Boy which one it is. I can't see The Boy from where I'm standing, so I'm just looking at the customer. Without hesitating, and looking right into this black man's eyes, I say in a loud, clear voice, "What's the name, Boy?"

I immediately realize what I've said, but it's too late. The guy gives me the single greatest "You have got to be fucking kidding me" look you have ever seen. I am paralyzed with embarrassment and shame. But mercifully The Boy answers immediately. The guy then gives me the "I knew you weren't that fucking stupid" look and I fetch his VCR.

Fucking whitey.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I'll Do It, I Swear I Will!

I went to get gas yesterday after work. I was tired and had skipped my lunch, so I was in no mood to be bothered. I was waiting in line at the gas station when I noticed that some dick had left his Mercedes in front of both pumps at a particular island, ensuring he would be the only one pumping gas on that side. As this was a small station, that meant he was occupying 2 of the 8 pumps. Wait, it gets worse.

I probably had to wait about five minutes to get to a pump. I then had to get out and pump my gas. In all that time there was no sign of the driver of the Mercedes. There was no one in the vehicle, and worse yet there was no hose sticking out of the tank. About this time I noticed a guy in a suit and overcoat walking out of the Starbucks across the parking lot and headed toward the Mercedes. Sure enough, he puts his cup of coffee on the roof of the car and starts fumbling for his keys. At this point he notices me glaring at him. "What?!" he says. "Did you just park your fucking car at both pumps so you could go to Starbucks?" I ask. "Yeah," he says, "You got a fucking problem with that?" This presented me with several options:

1. Go the tough guy route, and walk over and fight him.

2. Stand where I was and publicly humiliate him, as by now people had noticed the shouting and the profanity.

3. Drive away and do nothing.

I chose number two. I'm like that.

I says to him I says, "Well, parking there was pretty bad, but acting like an asshole about it is making it a lot worse." This gets a chuckle from the other pumpers. Obviously a quick wit, he replies with, "Well, what are you gonna do about it, pal?" Me: "I'm going to point out what an asshole you are. I thought I was making that pretty clear." Louder laughs this time. But I can tell he is a bit flustered, because he says, "Where are your fucking balls? Come do something about it. I'm not going anywhere." Regrettably, I hit him back with, "I see that, and it's only exacerbating your whole asshole problem." This met with general silence and confusion among the pumpers. You'd think in my thirty years of being a smartass I would have learned that confrontations with the bully are no place to show off your vocabulary. It works in the movies, but extras seem to be a lot smarter than your average bystander.

But I felt as if I had achieved my goal. I got a few laughs and humiliated the guy. So I just got in the car and drove away. There was really no point in getting into a fist fight, and I probably would have lost anyway.

Situations like that are precisely the reason I don't own a gun. Because if I would have had one, I would have pulled it out. I don't necessarily know if I would have shot him, but I would have let him know that I was considering it. I would use it for the shock value, to explain in no uncertain terms that no, I'm sorry, but today is definitely not the day to fuck with me.

As I was driving home I was having a conversation with my friend Steve, explaining my need for something gun-like that would serve the same purpose. Something so immediately shocking and recognizable that whoever I was arguing with would just give up in fear. I've mentioned before that I used to think a fake badge would work in those situations, but surely there must be something better and scarier. That gave me an idea- a whip. Think about it. You get into an argument and they pull their coat up to reveal a whip on their hip, Indiana Jones-style. Who knows how to use a whip? Probably somebody who means fucking business, that's who. I was pretty proud of this, but without hesitation Steve offered up the answer:


I should carry around a jar of bees in the event that someone messes with me. It's brilliant in it's simplicity. Should an argument escalate into a potential conflict I could slowly remove the jar from my pocket and hold it up. "You don't want me to use THESE, do you?"

Admit it, you'd be scared.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Cat Fancy

My family pretty much always had a pet. When I was just a kid we had a cat named Buttons, and she hung around til I was about twelve or so. Then we got a cocker spaniel named Brandi, but that didn’t work out and my folks shipped her out. We then got another cat when I was probably about sixteen. We loved this one so much that we never gave it a name. We just called it Cat. That’s a true story. Cat died the summer before last, when my Mom was in the process of moving to Richmond. My mom packed Cat on ice, put her in a cooler, and drove her down to her new place to bury her in the yard. Kind of a gruesome story. But even better, that Thanksgiving when I went to visit my mom she packed up the Thanksgiving dinner in a cooler for me to take home. A week later, after I had finished eating everything, she confessed she used the same cooler that Cat had been in. Nice.

So in a roundabout kind of way I’m a cat person. Not that I like cats, or think anyone should have cats, but I understand them and I’m familiar with them. Because I was home all the time and up at all hours of the night I developed a bit of a relationship with Cat. She was an outdoor cat, so it was my job to let her in at night and make sure she was fed. But once she came in the house she did her thing and I did mine. The arrangement worked for us. And when I moved out of my mom’s house I thought my cat days were over.

But then I started dating Baby.

Baby hearts her two cats like most people heart children. She feeds them from the table, by hand. She lets them sleep in the bed. When they throw up (daily) or inexplicably poop next to the litter box she cleans it up without getting angry. You know how an infant spits up or has an ‘accident’ and people think it’s cute? Baby does that with the cats. She’s just that devoted. I, however, am repulsed.

Here’s a good example:

On Tuesday night I picked Baby up after work and we went and got some dinner. We went back to her place and I was trying to take a nap in her bed. She was laying beside me, reading the paper. Lola, the more docile of the cats, had taken her usual position beside Baby, on the side of the bed furthest from me. The fat, mean one, Jezebel, was nowhere to be seen. Yet.

Right as I’m dozing off I hear a sound I’ve honestly never heard before. It was a kind of scraping, slurping sound. I’m half asleep, so I ignore it for a while in hopes that it will go away. But when I notice the bed is shaking ever so slightly I can’t take the annoyance anymore.

bryc3: “Baby what is that?”

Baby: “It’s just Jezebel.”

bryc3: “What is she doing?”

Baby: “Licking her butt.”

bryc3: “You can’t be serious.”

Baby: (laughing) “Yeah, she has butt problems.”

The noise was horrifying, nightmarish. Does the mental image work for you? Good. Baby was completely unmoved. Apparently this is a normal occurrence.

We’re moving in together in two months. What the hell am I gonna do? I love Baby, more than anything. She’s the best thing since ever and I’d do anything for her. But I’m simply not a cat person. And I can tell this bothers her because she watches how I interact with the cats. It hurts her feelings that I don’t feed them French fries when we’re watching TV, or let them sleep on my side of the bed. She frowns when I spend the whole night picking cat hairs off my pillow. I have tried to explain that I love her, and in turn love her cats because they mean so much to her. And she admits the cats like me, because they’re typically unfriendly but took to me the minute they met me. I’ve had other people tell us that that’s because the cats can sense I don’t like them. But that’s simply not the case. I do like them, just in my own way. I’m not affectionate (and disgusting) with my pets. I keep them at arms length. But I would never do anything to hurt them, and take care of them as if they were my children.

Yet none of it is enough for Baby. She wants me to be a cat person. Is that even possible? Can I change? Or can I find a new way to explain to her how I feel? Or perhaps I need to just put my foot down and drown them in the Potomac?

Monday, January 09, 2006

You're Always Going To Work In Admin, So Just Get To The Fucking Point Already

It has been brought to our attention that, through the use of interoffice memos, emails, and announcements on the bulletin board, that, some of you it seems, are finding yourselves in a state in which you feel as if it is appropriate, necessary, or perhaps even beneficial to use, wherever possible, as many words (and commas, and ellipses, and the ever-confounding and dreaded semi-colon) as possible to convey, express, or describe a situation, feeling, or idea that could, and probably be should, be spit the fuck out in ten words or fewer so we can get on with our day.

"Typing is fun! I sit here and push the little buttons with the little letters on them and they show up on my screen! I get to, you know, like, express myself, and stuff."

I'm loading my gun.

Look I'm not going to kid anyone. If you get me talking it's quite possible that I will never shut up. I can literally talk until I have nothing more to say. I don't mean the subject has been exhausted. I mean everything that has ever happened to me and everyone I have ever known has been exhausted. This is just one of my charms (read: character flaws). But in the course of a human conversation you can pick up the subtle context clues (blood streaming from the ears is my favorite) that it's probably best to get back to work.

Written communication at work is meant to be digested quickly. I need you to tell me "The building is on fire. Please use the South exit." See how easy that is? Concise, efficient, necessary. No creative license. And look! I'm not on fire!

Let's talk promotion.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Fag It Out, Bitch

I’m gay.

And not in a cool homosexual way. No cute boyfriend, no shaved head, no hardbody, no Jetta. No, I’m gay in a Steven Cojocaru kind of way. My gayness is only exacerbated by the fact that I know who Steven Cojocaru is.

There was a time in my life when I was at least somewhat manly. I used to build things, I used to play sports, I used to own a pair of Timberlands for outdoor work, not hip hop video cameos. Yeah, those days are gone.

In the last year I’ve gotten contacts, dyed my hair, bought clothes that are size Medium, experimented with various hair care products, started using a facial moisturizer, and even eaten a handful of vegetables.

I could take the easy way out and blame my girlfriend. But who am I kidding? I’ve put up the minimum amount of resistance possible in her efforts to make me more fabulous. Turns out getting in touch with my feminine side was a lot easier than I originally thought. I’m positive that I’m only a few weeks away from finding a nice cowboy and settling down.
So this is me coming out of the closet. I’ve been in here all morning throwing away band t-shirts and color-coding my wardrobe. Fuck! Entertainment Tonight is on in fifteen minutes! Where does the time go?