Midweek Rant #7: Sunglasses

April 2, 2009

I need to talk about sunglasses.

People in New York City certainly wore sunglasses, but I don’t remember them ever becoming an issue for me.  In this sunny city of Los Angeles, however, they can be worn for close to 87 percent of the daylight hours without being scoffed at as “just for fashion”.  (Don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about, hipsters)

The issue I have with sunglasses has been further exacerbated by the fact that my job consists primarily of walking up to people and starting conversations in an outdoor setting.  Before I engage, I have absolutely no idea whether or not they’ve heard the spiel I’m about to unleash, let alone whether or not they have any interest in it whatsoever.

I need every clue from them I can get.  Although I feel like I’m getting closer and closer to mastering this skill, no amount of communicative savvy can prepare you for this:

What in God’s name is going on behind those shades?  Huh?!  I wonder if people that wear inappropriately large pairs of sunglasses ever think to themselves, “why do I have so many awkward conversations?”

Now I must clarify that there are exemptions.  Both Compulsive gesticulators and the emulators of the popular bobble-head dolls pass with flying colors, whether intentional or not.  I suspect, or at least hope, that many of the exempted in fact opt for these techniques out of common communicative courtesy. 

I am personally a big fan of the ‘stoic-wait’.  After years of assaulting people with golly-gee, Upstate, ‘how are ya’ banter, I began to experiment with the stoic-wait in an effort to improve my articulation.  I found it reduced the number of superfluous words, phrases, and sentences that would reflexively pop out of my mouth.  “I’ve gotta keep this conversation going,” I used to think to myself as I stammered out a stream of man’s and yeah’s until finally finding a catch phrase or familiar topic to grab onto.

The stoic-wait was my cure, allowing “it” to drive the conversation (if you’re into the Zen thing).  I find it allows time for people to connect for real, and consequently new topics will find themselves.

But the stoic-wait is not the be all and end all.  For example, it’s not particularly useful in loud bars.  You do the stoic-wait in a bar and you’d better be ready to start making out with the person.  Immediately.  The stoic-wait isn’t particularly helpful when you’re talking to crazy people, either.  They tend to take it as an invitation, and while invitations are wonderful things to proffer, this one will pave the way for theories and declarations that are sure to make you wish you steered the conversation towards the previously unfavorable topic of the brightly colored pair of socks your new pal is currently wearing on his ears.  Lastly, the stoic wait is not particularly useful when you are wearing the kind of giant pair of sunglasses they designed for celebrities and coke-heads.

I had an acting teacher that told me once: “you’re performing for three people; they’re all sitting in the back row; one is blind, one is deaf, and one doesn’t speak English”.

I’d be willing to bet that a good percentage of the people that wear sunglasses in this town would not understand what my teacher was talking about, since they have no comprehension of, let alone respect for, the art of communication.  In order to understand what my teacher was driving at, you’d need to be the sort of person that realizes that someone that doesn’t understand English is also unable to understand “really loud English” (they’re actually quite similar languages).

The day may come when I will demand people take off their sunglasses when they talk to me.  They eyes are on the only living part of the body, and if I can’t see them, our conversation is pretty much dead.  In the mean time, I’m starting a letter writing campaign to Federal Regulatory Committees to instate a Permit requirement for the purchase of Sunglasses, which will be obtainable by passing the following Quiz: 

 

  1. Are you a jerk?
  2. Can people see your eyes when you have sunglasses on?
  3. Seriously though…are you a jerk?

If you answer “no” to 2 of the 3 questions, you can get a permit.


Midweek Rant #6: Flyers & Menus

March 26, 2009

I had the same next door neighbor for all four years I lived in Midtown Manhattan.  Michael was in his late fifties, well dressed, well groomed, well read, and had an unnerving ability to maintain unflinching eye-contact for unusually long periods of time.  This last quality led to him acquiring the nickname “Fava Beans” one night, after telling my roommate and I about the lady from the third floor that was lighting candles on the roof.

“She’ll burn us all alive” he warned with the terrifying vocal quality of Anthony Hopkin’s Hannibal Lecter.  It was tough to tell who we should be worrying about, the lady on the third floor or the guy across the hall with a proclivity for Chianti

I distinctly remember the first time that it crossed my mind that Michael was absolutely insane.  At this point I had only experienced his deliberate stillness, so the aggressive burst of movement I witnessed that particular night was surprising to say the least. 

As peculiar as it would have seemed with any other neighbor, the fact that I always arrived at the building’s front door at the same time as Michael did was something I didn’t think twice about.  Conversations would always ensue before entering, continue while walking up the stairs, and linger on for far too long in front of my apartment door.

So we were mid-conversation when the front door was opened this Autumn evening in 2003.  Upon seeing a pile of menus that had been slipped under the door by the local Mexican Restaurant, Michael burst into stream of expletives directed into the general airspace of Ninth Avenue.  Without interrupting his own word flow, he bent down and picked up the menus with the nimbleness of Ian McKellan, which I had not realized was an option for this man up until this point. 

“Fucking assholes!!!” he roared as he proceeded to throw all ten of the brightly colored menus onto the sidewalk with a trajectory that enabled each one to separate itself from the pack and find it’s own special place on the concrete, thus maximizing the surface area that El Taco would inhabit. 

Hmm.

Noticing the perplexed and slightly aghast look on my face, he pointed to a sign on the door that says “No Menus Please”, explaining that the impudient Restaurants know better and this was just a recalcitrant ploy to make a few extra bucks.

“If I want a fucking menu, I’ll go and get a fucking menu myself, thank you very much!”

Hmm.

At this point I had gotten over the shock of what was happening and began thinking about how uncomfortable the rest of the journey up to the fourth floor and into the actual door of my apartment was going to be.  Michael regained his composure, and his stoic nature took on a new level of creepiness, as I was now aware of the volcano that was always ready to erupt.

And that was just over menus…

However, five years of living in New York City gave me insight as to why Michael may have gone so nutty over what would seem to be an innocuous attempt to advertise on the part of the Restaurant.  People were always handing you something, putting something under your door, or wearing a giant sign (in this last example, as they simultaneously re-traced all the steps in their lives that led them to being a walking “Men’s Tuxedos” billboard).  Living in Los Angeles, however, is different.  There’s not much foot traffic, so having people hand out flyers is pretty inefficient.  Door to door flyering is pretty much nonexistent, as the population is spread out over houses and three-story apartment buildings.

So what’s a guy with a bunch of flyers to do?  The solution lies, as does the answer to every question regarding Los Angeles, in Automobiles.

Automobiles!

I couldn’t help but channel Michael the first day someone put a flyer under my windshield wiper.  Having already gotten a ticket for forgetting to move my car for street cleaning, I was in a state of paranoia at all times regarding where it was I had parked The Beast.  Twenty feet away I noticed what appeared to be the same size and color as the citation I had just received.

“Fucking son of a bitch!” I thought, my heart racing and my disdain for Los Angeles expanding and mutating.  I didn’t even want to look at it, I just put the groceries I had in my hand in the car, maniacally postulating over whether it was worth the time to compare prices of the several varieties Dried Figs for sale when it must have put me over my time limit on the meter and cost me whatever Fascist price the LA DMV thought such an offense dictated.

I took a deep breath, gathered myself, and calmly walked to the front of the car to open the ticket.  But what did I find?

“Tony’s Haircuts”

I know what you’re thinking.  Weren’t you glad it wasn’t a ticket?

Well that’s because you didn’t live in New York City.  Had you lived there, you would be with me in thinking:

“Thanks a lot, Tony!  How about I come into your barber shop and give you a beating with my windshield wiper?  Huh?!  That’ll teach you not to put shit on my car!

But here I was with an option that was not afforded to me in New York.  I didn’t have to physically take this flyer out from under my windshield wiper.  It would eventually come off on it’s own, either from the driving on the highway or using the wipers next time it rained.  And in the meantime, it will send a message to all the other flyering jerks that I don’t take flyers out from under my windshield wiper.

Atta way to stick it to ‘em, Gavin.

Why should I have to waste three seconds of my day lifting my windshield wiper and disposing of this piece of junk?  They’re wasting paper as it is!  Just like Michael said, if I want to find out about Tony’s Haircuts I’ll go to Tony’s Haircuts and be like “hey, Tony, tell me about these haircuts you got.”

So here it is, after seven weeks (it finally came off a few days after I took this picture):

img_04681

Is that a ticket?

img_0465

That's not a ticket, that's a flyer

img_0466

That's what seven weeks'll do to your flyer, Tony

 

And for those of you that don’t get the New York City hatred of flyers, let my good buddy Tim Clancy’s video enlighten you:


Midweek Rant #5: Bananas

March 19, 2009

I have of late, but wherfore I cannot quite articulate, become wary of bananas.  In these situations when I can’t quite put my finger on it…I rant.

I rant!

The first hint that bananas need some questioning came from the scallop-filled mouth of my former boss at the Barking Dog Restaurant, George.  Having grown up in Greece, George always had a bit of information to share with you that would in some way contribute to his central thesis that his native country was far superior to America, or any other nation or civilization that ever existed on the Planet Earth.  That includes you, Mayans.  Don’t even think about it, Druids.  Did someone say something about the Pyramids?…I assure you the Greeks built them and transported them to Egypt.  How could the Egyptians do it by themselves?  Their ineptitude is evident in their cave drawings that make the Greeks look like Aliens!

“You have to eat peppers.  Peppers are good source of potassium.  You need potassium in this business because you are on your feet all day.  A lot of these people think bananas are the best source, but it’s not true.”

Outraged, I had to interject: “Whoa! Whoa.  George, you’re trying to tell me bell peppers have more potassium than bananas?!”

“Yes!” he insisted, further driving home the point with a signature fist-pound on the table, creating an effective jingle of cutlery, sugar caddy, and salt & pepper shakers.  “Everyone thinks that bananas are best source of potassium but that’s because they don’t use their brain.  They don’t use their brain!”  (fist pound)

Although originally domesticated in Mexico, bell peppers became a regular element of Greek Cuisine.  Bananas, however, did not.  So my assumption was that George was getting his facts mixed up as he was trying to further illustrate the brilliance of Greece, the country he brags about so much, but after 34 years has yet to return to.

I let it be, and planned to look it up when I got home.

Always the scatter brain, I of course forgot to.  But it was six months later when I was transitioning to veganism that I thought it might be a good idea to learn about nutrition so that I wouldn’t die from malnutrition.  Sure enough, under the caption “Potassium”:

“Though bananas have somehow become famous as potassium-rich foods, in fact mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, and strawberries all have more potassium per calorie than bananas.”  Becoming Vegan by Breanda Davis & Vesanto Melina

Peppers weren’t even listed, but…potatoes?  What kind of nonsense are these vegans spouting?  For a more thorough list, I checked out a nutrition website, in which bananas ranks a solid 38th on the list of nutrient density (all the other sites say the same thing in a less organized and thorough manner):

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=90#foodsources

Even if this number isn’t entirely accurate (nutrient density isn’t particularly telling when considering turmeric), the point remains that there are LOTS of sources of potassium other than bananas.

And yet!

Every single person I have ever asked the question “what would you say is the best source of potassium is” says “bananas.”  Nine out of ten can’t name another source.  Haven’t had anyone name three (and I asked a lot of people because I’m a big dork).

WTF?!

If I were to ask someone what the best source of protein is I would no doubt get lots and lots of answers.  I can only think of one other nutrient that has gets the same treatment:

Calcium!  Ah yes, calcium.  But of course you must drink milk to get calcium.  Well, let’s peek at the list, just in case.

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=45

So there are other sources?  I don’t need an explanation for this one.  The Dairy Industry pumps a lot of money into commercials to make sure you’re of the mindset that “Milk Does a Body Good”.  Thus, Calcium = Cow’s Milk.  So the question arises, why does Potassium = Bananas?

Who is the mastermind behind this fallacy?  For the life of me I could’ve sworn there was a Banana Council, but it turns out that the “Council” belongs to Peanuts (Don’t think I’m not watching you too, peanuts!).  But alas, I can’t seem to find any sort of big organization online that’s brainwashing us into thinking bananas are the only way to get some K (the element on the Periodic table, not the special cereal or rave-drug).

I’m watching you, bananas.  Aside from this guy, I think I’m the only one out there.

Some other things to think about.  Why is this exotic fruit that’s primarily grown in South America and Southern Asia SO easy to find ALL the time?  Ever notice that in old literature bananas are described as this exotic fruit that people are dazzled by (much like it’s less ubiquitous potassium co-champion, the kiwi).  So why so common?  It’s not like it’s super addictive like coffee is.  Ever needed a “banana fix”?  Why is it always sliced into bowls of cereal on Kellogs commercials?  I want answers.

I want answers!

Who am I kidding?  I just want to rant.  Thanks for letting me rant.

 


Midweek Rant #4: The Benefit of Ranting in Public

March 12, 2009

When I lived in New York City, my roommate Brian Bernys and I were walking on 42nd Street in Times Square one night, when the outgoing friendliness that we were accustomed to in the small college town of Geneseo managed to put us in an awkward situation.

As we walked with the general flow of foot traffic, a cab decided to lay on the horn for a solid twelve seconds, trying to send some sort of message to the car that was blocking it’s way (blocking it’s way to a congested crosswalk that the cab would not have been able to pass through, of course).  Bernys and I looked over at the car, just as another fellow was looking.  We both turned back, and we were put in that weird situation where you feel the need to say something to the other person.  At least that’s how we rolled in Upstate New York.

“Not gonna do much for ya, buddy” said Bernys, including the fellow pedestrian in his joke.  Seemed like the right thing to do, in the sense of spatial relationships.  I turned my attention to the shabbily dressed fellow, letting him know that he was now part of our temporary “group” (the group that had just witnessed the angry honker, and that was walking down 42nd Street).  New York City is actually filled with lots of friendly people, and this fellow was not shy in joining in.

“Yeah, fucking terrorists.  It’s always the terrorists driving cabs.  I’d almost rather have it be the n***ers…etc”

Hmmm.  It’s not that people in Upstate New York don’t say things like this, in fact racism is probably more common there.  It’s just that when people say innocuous things, commenting on the surroundings in an attempt to be jovial and friendly, the response generally doesn’t include the N-Word, let alone the stereotyping of an entire ethnicity based on the actions of a small extremist group.  And given the fact that Times Square is nicknamed the “Crossroads of the World” for good reason, this was the least comfortable place you could hear someone say something like this.

So Bernys and I did the turn-around, cutting off what I suspected was going to be a long-winded rant.  We must have passed the store we were looking for.  We quickly escaped our new found “group”.  You know when you wait until you’re out of earshot until you start talking about what just happened?  That’s what I figured would happen.  But by the time we were far enough away, there was nothing really to say.  We didn’t talk about it until a few hours later.  All it really got was the shake of the head.  The “man people here are messed up” shake of the head.

I couldn’t help but think of this encounter a few days ago when I myself was the explosive “ranter” in such a situation.

Walking back to the Metro from the Los Angeles Kings game Monday night, my housemate informed me that you have to pay an extra thirty cents to transfer from one line to another.  I assured him he was mistaken, that transferring between subways is free.  I was starting to get heated up because he was so sure of himself.  What would make him think something so ridiculous?  He started to show me what was written on the ticket, but before I could look I was distracted by the lady walking curiously close behind us.

Turning back to look, the woman was quick to acknowledge her proximity.

“Yep, I’m walking with you guys!”

She started laughing.  But before you start picturing a stream of maniacal laughter pouring out of a disheveled bag-lady, this was instead a delightful chuckle coming from a very pleasant woman that was very well dressed.  A big, warm smile on her face, it was clear that she was joining my housemate and I so that she would not be walking alone.  It was, after all, 10pm at night on a dark alley road that could aptly be described as sketchy.

I was, of course, thrilled to be of help to this lady.  I come from the land of Upstate New York, where people look out for each other.  Of course she could walk with us!

Now that we were a “group,” I felt the need to include her in our current conversation.

“Do you know if you have to pay extra to transfer from the Blue Line to the Red Line?”

“Yes, you have to pay an extra thirty cents for the transfer” she informed me, with a bemused smile on her face, looking not at me, but straight ahead.

I wasn’t expecting such a succinct answer, and immediately burst into a rapid-reflex-reaction-rant that went something like this: “What kind of a Fascist system is that?  They expect people to use the Metro instead of driving a car, and they’re going to nickel and dime them like that?  That’s trash!  Trash!  It’s like you’re encouraging people to hate the Metro…”

The dot-dot-dot means there’s more to come.  This is where I notice that the bemused smile is still on her face, still facing ahead.

“…I got a monthly TAP Card when I first moved here, and you know what they said to me?  They said ‘keep the receipt so we know you didn’t steal it’ – didn’t steal it?  What kind of a backwards system is that?  The slogan for the card is “Smart. Simple. Secure”.  Are you kidding me?  Simple?  Not so simple if I gotta hold onto not only the card but the receipt.  Why give me the card in the first place?  I mean am I some kind of a jerk?…”

Noticing that the bemused smile was still on her face, and she was still facing forward, I felt the need to back up for a second.

“I just moved from New York City, where you buy an unlimited card and it covers subways and buses, and you register it online so if you lose it you can cancel it.  Transferring from train to train is just something you’re allowed to do; you can ride the subway all day if you’d like to.”

She finally responded, “Ah, New York City, they’re the best when it comes to public transportation, we have to hand it to them.”

I didn’t have anything to say to this, I just thought to myself, “yeah, that’s true”.

“Are you walking to the Metro right now?”

“Yeah, we just got out of the hockey game, we live in North Hollywood so we take the Blue to the Red.”

“Great.  Well as an elected official, I want to say ‘thank you’ for riding the Metro.”

Oh.

It gets better.  She’s on the Metro San Gabriel Valley Governance Council.  I’m talking to someone that is working to get more people to take the Metro!  There was nothing for me to do in this situation but to laugh at the fact that I just ranted and raved like a lunatic about the Metro, seemingly out of nowhere, to someone that has been elected to make it better.  I made no attempt to take back anything I said, and instead took the opportunity to suggest they start making the Subway to the Sea, extending the Purple Line down Wilshire all the way to the Pacific Ocean.  She told me that in fact legislation had just passed and I said that that was great.  Then we parted ways.

So the moral of this Midweek Rant?  Real life ranting, while it may make people uncomfortable, does have the tiny chance of actually mattering. 

Hey, people always say they want honesty.  Well, Council Member Sharon Martinez got it.


Midweek Rant #3: The Academy Awards

March 5, 2009

My favorite Theater critic is Charles Isherwood of the New York Times.  It took some time for him to earn my respect, but he got it.  How did it happen?  I started seeing plays based on his reviews, and I couldn’t help but find myself agreeing ninety percent of the time.  Or sometimes I’d see a play before his review came out, and then I’d read it and think “not bad, Charlie, not bad at all.” 

Sure there have been a few times when I have been appalled.  Edge Theater’s “Essential Self Defense” by Adam Rapp was one of the most interesting and thought provoking and entertaining plays I’ve ever seen with to-die-for performances by Paul Sparks and Heather Golenhersh, incredible music by Ray Rizzo and Lucas Papaelias, a breathtaking set by David Korins, and seamless direction by Carolyn Cantor.  Yet Isherwood thrashed it.

Why did I forgive him?  Because it was the exception, not the rule.  Isherwood is my man most of the time, and even when he’s not, I at least respect his poor judgement.

That being said, I’d like to talk about the Academy Awards.  Living in Los Angeles, I could smell the ceremony in the air in the days leading up to February 22nd.  Everyone had a party to go to.  The Oscars!  The Oscars!

But thinking back, what has the Academy done to earn this respect?  Money aside, they don’t have much to tout.  Remember when Gwyneth Paltrow won for “Shakespeare in Love,” beating Cate Blanchett for “Elizabeth”?  Is there any explanation for this in terms of acting merit?

I could go on and on about not only all the bad choices made, but the good choices made for the wrong movie (Scorcese wins for Departed, Denzel Washington for Training Day?).  But all of these lead me to believe that artistic merit is trumped by politics, which is of course controlled by money.

So this year I was feeling a bit angry about the awards before they even happened.  Would Melissa Leo even be considered for Best Actress?  Of course not!  And I was at peace with that.  I love Kate Winslet as much as the next jerk, and no one would argue that the award is overdue.  But was it necessarily the right choice?

But an offense occurred this year that I will never recover from.  I’m not sure why I’ve let the Academy Awards get away with this nonsense for so long.  If Charles Isherwood was this irresponsible, I’d have cancelled my delivery long ago and let them know in writing how come!  But the Academy has a stranglehold on the industry, so it’s been tough for me to let go.  I’m ready now, thanks to a little category called “Best Live Action Short”.

While in New York City I went to the IFC Film Center with my buddy Tim Clancy to watch the five short films nominated.  There was one movie that was obviously going to win, two that could possibly win, and two that there was no way was going to win.  Of the two that didn’t have a chance, my least favorite by far was “Toyland”. 

The Holocaust one.  Problem was, it wasn’t that good of a movie.  Tim argued a few of it’s attributes, of which I will admit it did indeed have.  The Nazis in the film were played with bone-chilling humanity.  It was like they were NYPD cranked up a few notches.  But all in all, it’s not that good of a film.  The ending was so trite I actually laughed, and laughing at a Holocaust film is something I always assumed I would never do.  If I was Isherwood, I would have torn this film apart with a few nice comments somewhere in the middle.

But it won.  And I think it’s because no one saw any of the films, and so they voted for the Holocaust one.  Way to go, Academy!  Imagine if Isherwood went off of the descriptions of the plays without actually seeing them?  I’d be like, “Charlie!  C’mon!  C’mon, Charlie, get your act together!” (you may have noticed by now that I am taking great pleasure in referring to Charles Isherwood as ‘Charlie’).

I don’t know if anyone finds my conclusion offensive or not.  I urge you, however, to watch the film that should have won.  You can buy it for $1.99 on iTunes.  It was the last film that played in the IFC showing, and so Tim and I had to do the “walk of shame” in which two guys in their mid-twenties walk out of a theater, no dates in hand, eyes swollen from crying.

Embarrassing, but worth it:

Manon on the Asphalt

So please please support this film by watching it (click the link above).  You’ll thank me, I promise.  And please please don’t watch Toyland.  The Holocaust deserves a better film than this, and the people today deserve a better Academy than we have.  And I’d also like to remind you that the Academy has always sucked and been dominated by politics.  Citizen Kane?  A whopping ONE win in the 1942 ceremony.  Two awards would have been overboard for a film that influential.  As for Charles Isherwood, I don’t live in New York City anymore, so please please keep doing a good job for me.

I’m sorry, but I’ve got to do it once more:

Charlie.


Midweek Rant #2: Coffee Mugs

February 26, 2009

It finally doesn’t suck to be a Green Coffee Drinker!

How awesome is it to drink coffee out of a paper cup?  Sometimes I think people that are trying to “Green” the world have no idea what they are doing.  I can’t think of a better example than Thermal Coffee Mugs.

I hesitate to call them mugs.  I’m not much of a football player, but every time I grab one of these things I feel like telling the closest person to go long.  The center of gravity has been optimized for knock-over-ability.  It’s hard to even put one on a flat surface.  Even if you’re successful, the amount of tension in your neck that accumulates from the impending spill requires at least a ten-minute massage to alleviate.  To make matters worse, a lot of them have added handles, which make the center of gravity outright cartoonish.  I could understand if the top was spill proof, but don’t let any claims made by the manufacturers fool you, you’re going to be spilling some coffee.  There’s only one possible explanation for the shape, and that is to accommodate for the cupholders you find in cars.  Well, shit, it hasn’t stopped people from buying 44-ounce sodas!

What irritates me more than anything about how inept these companies are is that they’re competing with a giant.  Paper cups are just so damn delicious to drink coffee out of.  And what has more nostalgia attached to it than coffee?  Holy crap, I don’t think I’d even have friends if it weren’t for coffee.  Since I first got hooked, it’s been with me for so many important occasions in life.  And given the fact that most places don’t even bother with ceramic mugs, all these occasions have been environmentally disastrous.  But shit, at least I didn’t have to worry about it getting knocked over all the time.

Finally the good people at MiGo have come to their senses and come out with what I call a “Cheersing Mug”.  I’d bring this thing to a keg party.  A fantastic shape, solid handle, and a lifetime warranty.  15 bucks at Target.

I like this thing so much that when I forgot it the other day and had to drink out of a paper cup, it really bothered me.

Go get one and Cheers the mother fucker.

 

41nk29bcbkl_sl500_aa280_1

Finally, a mug that respects gravity...

 


Midweek Rant #1: Water Bottles

February 18, 2009

In addition to my Monday posts, I’m going to start posting a Midweek Rant.  Here’s installment number one:

“The Tyranny of Madison Square Garden”

I’d like to talk about water bottles 

Occasionally I’m in a situation where if I don’t buy bottled water then I will get really dehydrated.  So I buy it, and keep the bottle, so I can reuse it as much as possible. 

Yes, yes, chemicals will leach out of the bottle over time and give me cancer.  What doesn’t these days?  I’m hoping to convert one day to an actual water bottle made from something friendly, but until I can find a way to make it cost effective given how easy it is to lose them, I’m sticking with my reused Aquafina.

I was at Madison Square Garden last year going to a Rangers game.  I had my backpack on, which I always had with me in Manhattan as I lived way back in Jersey City.  I was told at the security check that I couldn’t bring in any “liquids” to the game, referring to my plastic water bottle that was half full.  As I was early to the game, I told them I would go back out and drink it, and then come back in. 

I had done this several times before at airport security.  I always joke with the guards that it was a good thing I had gone to college, hoping to ease the tension as I pound twenty ounces of water, having stepped aside to let the irritated person behind me go past (is the person behind you always impatient, too?).  You end up with an empty bottle that, despite it’s cancer-inducing capabilities, will not be of much use in a terrorist attempt.

So I walked back up to the security check at Madison Square Garden, this time being guided to a different security guard.  He took the bottle out and told me I couldn’t bring it in, much in the same way as the other guard, using the word “liquids”. 

“Oh, it’s empty” I assured him.

“Yeah, but you can’t bring it in.”

“Oh.  Wait, why?”

“It just looks bad.”

This was the most fantastic response I’ve ever heard.  Sometimes I can’t even talk about such things because it makes my head feel like it’s going to explode.  It looks bad?  To who?  The guy sitting behind me?  What’s that goomba doing with an Aquafina bottle?  I don’t like the looks ‘o that. 

Does it look bad to his boss?  Like they’re doing a bad job and not checking bags properly?  This was perhaps the case, so I thought I could make things better by offering the solution.

“Can I see your supervisor?”

Holy crap!  I don’t think I’ve ever said that before.  Maybe once I asked to speak to a supervisor on the phone, but shit, this was a big security guard that didn’t look too happy at my request.

I asked with very innocuous intention; if the big boss says it’s Ok then nobody’s going to get in trouble.  But apparently I was being difficult.  I don’t normally like be difficult, but buying a 16 ounce bottle of water for more than the cost of a McDonald’s #1 Value Meal is a major problem.

The supervisor came over and I stated my case.  It was an empty bottle.  He actually jumped right away to my suspicion: “They want you to buy the water in there.”

Ha!  As much as this was pissing me off, I appreciated the blunt honesty.  I told him that I knew that, but that I was broke and wanted to bring this in and fill it up at a water fountain (he was honest with me after all).

“There’s no water fountains in there” he responded in his think Brooklyn accent.  This inevitably turned on my own New York-ese:

“You kiddin’ me?  They don’t got one water fountain in all of Madison Square Garden?”

“Not one, kid.”

“Well then I won’t be able to fill it up, so what’s da problem?”

“Cuz it looks bad kid!”

“To who?”

“It just looks bad.”

“To the people sellin’ water, I know.  Here ya go, do me a favor and at least recycle it.”

I walked by satisfied with my exchange.  At least this guy knew the motivation behind the “no liquids” policy.  Some would assume it had to do with security, but in fact, it was a “no food or beverages” policy.  You ever hear coca-cola referred to as a “liquid” before September 11th. 

Shame on Madison Square Garden for training their security to use this terminology.  And mad props to this guy for being all blunt about it.  It only took me one lap to find the water fountain.  I bought a bottle of water for 4 dollars 50 cents, and planned to fill it up at least six times, commenting loudly on how convenient the water fountain was. 

“We can’t give you the cap, is this OK?”

My jaw was on the counter as I nodded.  They beat me again.  I had a 16 ounce capless bottle of water. 

My only solace was fantasizing about the next time I would come to the Garden.  This time I wouldn’t have a water bottle, I’d only have a cap.  I’m pretty sure I could get through security with it, and then when I was buying a bottle of water and they said “we can’t give you the cap, is this OK?” I could respond with a big smile, holding up my own cap:

“That’s OK, I brought my own.”