Games You Can’t Win

I find it depressing that we categorize entertainment by the age demographic at which it is targeted. I suppose it makes sense to call The Hunger Games a young adult novel. Certainly I can see how its themes would resonate with teenagers (and teenage girls, specifically). But whenever I hear someone refer to the Looney Toons or Rocky & Bullwinkle as kids’ stuff, I am reminded of the great Maurice Sendak, who, when asked why he wrote for children, said, “I don’t. I write and somebody says, ‘That’s for children’.” When I visit bookstores (which I do quite often), I frequently find myself wandering over to the kids’ section so I can read Sendak or Dr. Seuss. Seuss’ stuff holds up really well. The Butter Battle is a powerful allegory for nuclear war that scared me even before I understood what it meant, The Sneeches is a sweet story about tolerance and overcoming prejudice, and I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew is a really funny book about learning to face your problems instead of running from them. And then there’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, which was the last book he wrote and is a popular gift for young graduates. I will say no more about that one.

When I was in college, I read Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, figuring that if I read one book for pubescent girls in my lifetime, it should be that one. I did feel a little weird checking that one out from the library, but I think we tend to shelter our kids a little bit too much these days. I recall an incident when I was a child in which I was trying to cross the street. It was rush hour, so even though I lived in the suburbs, I couldn’t really find a gap in traffic large enough to fit through. So I sat down on the curb and started crying. Within one minute, a woman pulled over, asked me what the problem was, then held my hand as we crossed the street. I never saw her again. Would that fly today? We talk to kids so much about stranger danger that you’d think everyone who doesn’t have kids is a pedophile. I don’t have kids, but I’m pretty sure I’m not John Wayne Gacy.

I’m not sure where I’m going with all this. When it comes to the media I consume, I just don’t think very much about who it was made for. I’ll watch How to Train Your Dragon and Stranger by the Lake (an erotic gay French thriller) one after the other if I feel like it. It’s the nice thing about being an adult: you don’t have anyone telling you what to do. Yet I still know people who would return to their childhood if they had the chance. That makes no sense to me. I was not a happy child. I’m not much happier now, but I am freer.

Customer service is a good way to learn to hate humanity. I had a guy complain the other day that he had to wait four minutes for his americano. Wow. Four whole minutes. Then when I gave it to him, he complained that the water had gotten cold because I let it sit on the bar while I made the drinks for the people in line ahead of him and pulled the shots. So it dropped from 180 degrees to 170? Geez, I feel so sorry for you! It’s almost like coffee shops get really busy in the mornings or something. But seriously, you have to at least try not to let shitheads like that one get to you. Let’s face it, most of the people you interact with when you’re doing that kind of work aren’t the sort that you would want to talk to outside of work anyway. One of the regulars started complaining about Asian drivers and how they don’t belong here the other day. I said nothing because, um, what I really have to say to that would get me fired. Just take your drinks and leave, dude. Nobody wants to hear it.

There is a reason I’ve never even been considered for any kind of management position even though I’ve been working at this place for a little less than a year, and that’s that I don’t have the patience to fake it with people who get on my nerves. If you want to be a dick to me, I’ll still get you your coffee. But I won’t apologize to you because you had to wait less than five minutes for it. I just won’t.

Currently, I have so many balls in the air that I just can’t seem to focus on anything. I’m in the middle of, like, six books right now. I’m splitting my time between various movies and TV shows on multiple streaming services, and I still don’t have as much of a social life as I’d like. (That said, I went to a farewell party for a friend who was leaving for grad school over the weekend and met one very pleasant couple who pretty much single-handedly made all of the other shit that happened that week worthwhile.) It’s funny. I can feel some of my old friends pulling away from me. I guess that’s just the way of things. I can’t seem to find my center. My dreams are still frantic and jumbled, like a kaleidoscope of my own life. Sometimes they’re really, really intense, reminding me of shit I’ve been trying to bury for years now. I feel like the universe is going to have to meet me halfway sooner or later. But I have a sick feeling that there is a lot more pain in my near future.

Someday I think I’ll have to travel through the red states. I’m getting tired of hypocritical liberals who voted for Obama but skip to the other side of the street if they see a black dude in a hoodie coming their way. But tempers will have to cool a little bit first. I’m still angry as hell. And I’m going to take it…well, a little bit longer, maybe. But not too long. I think there are far too many people who pride themselves on what they aren’t. And all of them, it seems, are on the internet.

A Tiger in Africa

I think it’s time to talk about Star Wars. I’ve been thinking about digging into the Extended Universe a little bit. I played the first KotOR, along with Jedi Academy when I was in high school. I’ve had the DVDs of Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars shorts sitting in my desk for quite some time now, and I’m thinking I should read Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy. There’s a lot to sort through, and like the good little nerd that I am, I can’t wait to eat all of it up. Of course, my biggest nerdy obsession (for a very long time) has been Doctor Who. I’ve sunk considerable time and money into the Audio Adventures (basically radio plays) and have even dabbled in the novels and podcasts as well. It’s fun stuff. Unfortunately, I’m thinking of calling off those Doctor Who nights I’ve been holding semi-regularly for a while. I used to invite friends over, bake something, then eat it and watch Doctor Who with them, but nobody seems to want to do it anymore. I held one last month and nobody showed up. Since I’d invited only five or six people, I figured that I just hadn’t made it into a big enough event. So I created a Facebook event and invited 15-20 people, figuring I’d have more guests than I knew what to do with. And still nobody was interested.

Call me bitter, call me petty, but I feel like inviting fifteen to twenty people to a thing should be enough to ensure that at least one of them shows up, right? I’ve invited way fewer people to my Doctor Who nights in the past and still had a better turnout. But the world has moved on, I guess. It’s funny. The people to whom I’m closest are always the ones who seem most averse to spending time with me, perhaps because they sense how desperately I need it. So I have to get better at being alone. Don’t get me wrong: getting the cold shoulder from a bunch of people I thought were my friends hurt me more than a little. But I don’t need your pity. Things have been pretty rough for a long time now. I’m not sure if that will ever change.

genesis

On some level, I’m glad that I’m not in school anymore. Because now, I don’t have to deal with people getting all reflective and shit and talking about how the last year or so just flew by. Actually, people still do that, but at least I don’t have to sit through those trite commencement speeches. There’s probably a sense of poetic justice in the fact that the last Doctor Who storyline I watched was Genesis of the Daleks, which is also the one I showed on my first Doctor Who night a little less than four years ago. Back then, I had a small group of friends handy. This time, I was watching it by myself. There is some part of me that suspects that other people need me more than I need them. But I still have anxieties. And there is a tear inside me that refuses to close.

I’ve been to two therapists in my lifetime. The first I saw at my mother’s behest, the second at the urging of somebody else under rather odd circumstances. The second was more helpful than the first. I don’t think those facts are unrelated. The problem with changing the status quo is that it’s the status quo. People are so used to having things a certain way that when they are told that we’re not gonna do that anymore, they get very aggressive. A friend of mine asked a pretty good question not so long ago. When I complained about all of the shit that I’m going through with my parents, he asked, “How is this an obstacle to you?” I see his point. I may not be having the social life that I want right now, but I’m not locked up in SHU (sorry, I just finished the first season of Orange is the New Black). But things have been this way for so long that I can’t imagine what they look like when they’re different. I don’t know how other people see me. I work so hard just to avoid being consumed by insecurity and self-doubt that it’s all I can do just to avoid screaming and running down the street naked. But I don’t think the answer is therapy. I’ve been there before, and it helped a little, but there’s a world outside of mental health services.

I’ve dealt with crippling depression before. Most of us probably go through that sooner or later. I know the feeling of spending all day just waiting for bedtime to come so that you can go to sleep and escape the horror that fills each second. But of course, that doesn’t help. You have fucked up dreams or wake up after five hours feeling like something is pulling you apart because the weight that presses down on your back when you’re standing migrates to your feet when you lie down. I know that feeling, and it doesn’t describe where I’m at right now, at least not completely. I don’t need a shoulder to cry on. I don’t need someone to talk to. I need people who can be real. I lived most of my freshman year of college in near-total isolation. I went to zero parties, made like two friends, and didn’t spend much time with the other people in my dorm building even though that seems like a perfect setting to be friendly and outgoing. The solution to my problem is not to simply go to more parties. It’s to reach a point where I don’t spend all of my time wishing somebody would invite me to a party so that I will have somebody to talk to this month other than the people I live and work with. And that is something that I have to do alone.

On the upside, I am now making it into the gym at least slightly more often than I was nine or ten months ago. Take it for what it is.

Panopticon

I think the biggest problem with customer service is that there are idiots who think that the cashier actually gives a shit when they ask you how your day is going. That’s not always the customer’s fault; there are cashiers out there who have convinced themselves that they give a shit about how your day is going. And they don’t. They’re lying to themselves. But my problem is that I’m not as good at faking it as everyone else is. I don’t have the energy to act as if I give a shit how your day is going. Over the past month, I’ve tried to relax a little bit, to be as casual as possible in my interactions with customers. That seems to have helped. I’ve butted heads with coworkers, customers, and management over the past month or two, and if I had to pinpoint any one thing that is causing our problems, it’s the persistent lie that the customers are the most important part of customer service. They really aren’t. The employees are the heart of it. The customers are just guests.

I have recently begun to dip my toe into the waters of online dating. Unsurprisingly, it’s a lot like real-life dating, in that most people have unrealistically high expectations for their future partner and mostly everyone ignores me. I’m charming, funny, handsome (you’ll have to take my word for that; I’m not posting a picture), and of course, modest, but I haven’t had much luck with it so far, which is to be expected. Nobody likes me in the real world, so why should they like me online? Neil Gaiman once said that in the arts, people tend to keep working because they meet two of three criteria: quality work, punctuality, and likeability. I have shown up to work late exactly once in almost ten months (figures that the one day I count on the bus being late is the one day it actually comes on time), am very precise and thorough in my work, and am disliked by almost everyone. Oh, most people would tell you they like me if you asked them, but those are the same people who ask you how your day is going and act like they give a shit. So there.

missing the pointI wrote a post a little over a year ago about my personality type. I took the MBTI and it told me I was an INFJ. I’m generally skeptical of anyone claiming that a simple test can tell you who you are (I took the Enneagram once and didn’t quite agree with it), but part of what I like about Myers-Briggs is that it doesn’t claim to do that. It’s a guideline, nothing more, nothing less. If you accept that people generally do fall into one of sixteen basic types, then knowing which one you are might help you understand why you are the way you are and how you can better relate to other people. It’s rare that I get this defensive of something that has nothing to do with Doctor Who, but this article fucking pissed me off. The MBTI is not a fucking horoscope. It’s not a goddamn Buzzfeed quiz. I don’t know how much actual evidence or research there is to back it up, but I don’t need any to see that the aforementioned article is no more than lazy clickbait. The MBTI has helped me feel like I fit better into the world, specifically because what it says about me is not entirely flattering. That gives me a little bit more strength, and it means that my feelings of not fitting in may not be just my imagination after all.

I’m at the age where people I know are starting to get married and settled down. Except what does “settle down” actually mean? It can’t just mean that you buy a house in the suburbs and get a boring office job, 2.5 kids, etc. I’ve said before that I have no interest in that life, but that does not make me inherently more interesting than the people who do. There are infinite ways to be unconventional. And you can’t define yourself simply by being an outsider. There is a line in Elementary (which is itself a paraphrase of a line from one of the stories) where Sherlock tells Watson, “You make an effort to appear conventional, but I know, Watson, that you share my love for all that is bizarre and outside the humdrum routine of ordinary life.” I’m not very good at appearing conventional. I think that’s why I’m not very popular. But there are people who are every bit as weird as I am who are just better at appearing “normal”. And there are folks who pretend to be cool and rebellious but are actually playing it really, really safe.

I’m looking for something to tie all of this together. I’ve just returned after a month off of blogging. I didn’t expect all of my shit to be sorted out when I came back, and it’s not. Who could have predicted that? I still have lots of opinions, though. I recently stopped listening to This American Life for a little while because it’s too white and privileged even for me. (I really did not find their turning that story of an undercover cop who ruins a straight-A student’s life into a musical very amusing. That bitch manipulates him into buying weed for her and somehow he’s the bad guy? God, I could just smack her. And she seems to think that’s somehow the same as catching a meth dealer.) I’m very, very slowly getting back into gaming—not just computer games, but jigsaw puzzles and other such intellectually stimulating things. I have a great many gifts, but I still haven’t found my Watson. And as is often the case, the only way that I can see that happening is if I first get the world to back the fuck off first. So before I say goodbye, let me just say that I have no idea why Hulu Plus has ads. I thought not having ads was the whole point of a premium service? Oh, well.

Actually, one more thing: Weird Al is aging remarkably well, isn’t he? Hasn’t lost his touch, either. He’s really more musically talented than he gets credit for. Oh, and this article reminds me of me. Good night, folks.