PTRSD

I’d like to be serious for a minute. Can we talk, really talk? Well obviously not because you are reading this and I have already finished writing it, however if I could have your full attention for a minute or two that would be great.  I would like to discuss a very serious condition that affects millions of people, PTRSD. This is an annually occurring phenomenon for the most part though relatively minor cases can pop up year round, symptoms include short temper, chronic exhaustion, head aches, anxiety and loss of faith in humanity. Post Traumatic Retail Service Disorder, literally sucks the joy from December like a leech.  

My first job was Christmas staff at Winning Spirit in Richmond Centre Mall, the Vancouver Canucks team store that specialized in home team merchandise for all our local teams and the more popular visiting teams.  In the early 1990’s the Starter jacket trend was sucking up disposable income at the highest rate possible and it was hard to keep shelves stocked, many items never made it to the shelves as they were sold out of the box as soon as they were opened. It was this year, at 15 years old, that I first contracted a case of PTRSD.  Due to my youthful appearance, to one middle aged lady it was obvious that I was in charge and should have fully stocked shelves on a Sunday, the fact that our last shipment had arrived Friday and the store had been incredibly busy all weekend did not factor in to her thoughts. I could not produce a Pavel Bure jersey in the correct size.  I would have gladly produced such a thing as it would have been an expensive item that would make me look great on our sales figures. I was not trying to be counter productive the item simply did not exist where I could lay my offended and terrified hands on it. The woman was frustrated searching for this item and her frustration was exploding at a 15 year old boy making minimum wage in a small and busy store. There I was, being berated for something I could not control infront of dozens of strangers for the least amount of money legally possible. I was rescued by the manager, at 40 plus hours a week for not much more money she was having none of it and the customer was firmly urged to consider a gift certificate or another store. I spent many more Decembers working retail, my last I was the manager and it seemed I had come full circle by 2001, my final retail year, I learned to deal with the irate, the theives, the ignorant, the careless, the bullies, and every other nightmare customer that causes PTRSD. 

This story is common place. Stores get busy this time of year, until mid January when all the exchanges and returns are done anyone in a store should expect limited selection, especially since restocking is slow between Christmas and New Years, that’s the way supply chains work, retail is seven days a week, ware houses and shipping companies simply are not. That person with the name tag is not at fault, they are not hiding anything to screw with you, they most likely want you to be in and out and happy in a short a time as possible, they gain nothing from withholding, in fact even non-commission sales are tracked at most stores, it may only mean they get to make minimum wage for a while longer but it keeps food on the table and a roof over head. If you are unable to find your item you have to accept that the fault is on you for not getting to it sooner. 

This isn’t meant to be a rant on the one side of the issue. Shopping at peak season is awful, the parking, the crowds, the traffic, the schtick over the store’s promotional program and surveys, the mess left behind by other shoppers that over whelms the staff and causes difficulty locating anything. Just last week (yep I was shopping that late) I was in an Old Navy that looked looted, it could have been a set piece for Walking Dead if the mass of humanity milling about had stopped by a Halloween sale first.  The staff at that particular store was not lazy just over whelmed, helping a customer becomes like chain smoking and tidying up leads to customer neglect which creases badly behaved customers that have cause to be even more frustrated because they are ignored.  It is unreasonable to expect customers to be able to refold and restock merchandise properly, retail veterans may be able to but in general it is an unlearned skill the key to good customer behaviour is not to go through the shelves and racks like a sharknado.  

Over the years I have stopped several clerks mid “Do you know about our…” Speech with “No thank you, let’s just get me out of the line and the others through.” I am not trying to be curt just low maintenance, I don’t want to be there anymore than they want to see a line stretching to the back wall, I try to be the customer that I wanted to have, in and out with what I came for, if it is sold out or unavailable that’s on me, no staff member of any store is trying to ruin my day, I do not need to ruin their’s or cause them to do extra work after closing time. 

The odds that the person helping you in the store or working the register is making a fortune for being there are the kind of odds that got C3-PO deactivated by Han Solo, astronomical, even if it is the owner of the store.  They don’t need to venom and ignorance that comes at them daily to survive, in fact they have to find time to go be customers too and if they go out after enough exposure to badly behaved customers they become badly behaved customers, there in lies the rub of PTRSD, it is contagious.  You may not be making much more income than them but in a majority of cases you can not legally be making less either and no one is paid enough to be berated, over worked and under appreciate, think on that for a minute and apply it to your own vocation. Really, pause and think hard, I’ll wait right here. That make you feel like spreading joy and peace as the season is intended or do you want to kick something? How long would your fuse be before you started thinking Mallrats had a point “The customer is always an asshole.”

Here is my desire as I close this out. Many years ago I heard a co-worker exclaim as customers left the store a very poignant farewell. I bid you all to take it with you, not only in your post Christmas shopping but all year long.  “Play nice in the mall!”

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The F word

Please don’t use the “F word” with me.  That word is disrespectful, insulting and if anything simply shows your own ignorance.  That’s a pretty harsh start, I know, so let’s back this up a tad before I start getting hate mail. 

In the mid 1980’s some older kid in the school yard walked past some friends and I and said flat out “You know that’s f***, right?”  We had no idea what he was talking about and went back to our WWF Tag Team Title match between The British Bulldogs and The Hart Foundation with our LJN toys (google it you’ll remember).  Most of us weren’t stupid, we knew something was up even if we didn’t yet know the mechanics of it. Many of you are shocked “You knew it was f*** and still watched?” Yes, we also knew that the Volkswagon in the parking lot wasn’t going to turn into a giant robot.   

I have spent thousands of hours watching wrestling, reading books on it, watching and listening to interviews and documentaries. I would say I’ve mastered being a wrestling fan. If you want to sit down and have a rational, intelligent discussion on the subject I’m your man but do not come at me with f*** as your only argument, you will leave offended.  That particular word is a gross misnomer, there are other more accurate terms that could be used; show, scripted, planned, predetermined…yet these still fall short of a completely accurate term.  

Let’s imagine it is Monday morning, you’re pouring a cup of coffee ready to start work and discussing Rick Grimes latest adventure with co-workers, out of nowhere someone pipes up “You know the dead don’t really walk right?  That’s so f***.” Who seems more foolish there?  Absolute reality is not required to entertain people, if you look at The Walking Dead as strictly a zombie war you miss the true story involved,a story that hooked a small niche market on black and white comic books then became the biggest show on television. 

Nobody watching a show they enjoy wants to be pulled out of their willing suspension of disbelief while watching. We discuss our favorite movies and shows by the names of the characters and the events as if they are pulled from the news. We like the immersion we get when we connect with things pulling anyone out of that immersion is quite simply disrespectful.  I do not understand for the life of me why people in this day and age feel it is acceptable to tell wrestling fans that the show they are enjoying is f*** because the participants already know the winner, to me this is right up there with interrupting the last scene of Rocky and reminding the room that the fight isn’t real, they know who will win and they aren’t really hitting each other.  I won’t get into the intricacies of contact because my point is not in the contact but in how so many non-fans abuse the term f*** and rip us fans out of our willing suspension of disbelief. 

I know what I’m watching, I understand what is happening on a level the f*** people don’t. I like enjoying the immersion and nuances.  If you are not into it that’s cool but if you want to drop the F-bomb…fuck off. 

What Am I Doing?

So it’s been a few weeks now, I would like to thank you for your support. Truly, it means a lot.  I should just let you know that I have very little idea of what I am doing.  I have been told repeatedly over the last few years that I can string together coherent thoughts and sentences, and I managed to get this page working. That’s where my knowledge ends.

Let me explain what collided to put me here. The first was that I publicly admitted I mentally talk myself out of writing everyday. The stories and ideas pop up and I just resign myself to the dark thoughts or laziness and don’t do it. For many years I used to sit with a coffee before work and write in the mall at a cafe, old school pen to paper. Eventually I stopped, I put it away for over a decade for all intents and purposes, I may have even destroyed it. Frankly I thought it sucked, it probably did, it was a first draft from an inexperienced writer, the core idea is still there and perpetually rattles around my skull so it may not be lost just waiting for a resurrection.  

About two years ago discovered podcasts, as I  listened to certain ones a few sound bites began to resonate. Over at The Nerdist podcast host Chris Hardwick (Talking Dead, @Midnight) began a promotional segment called The Nerdist Community Corkboard, during the intro of the episodes a list of Nerdist fan events or endeavours are read for listeners to check out, with the intention that the rest of us support our Nerdist community brethren, it began with Mr. Hardwick proclaim to listeners “Make a thing!”  What a concept, just make anything you want. The second sound bite was “This is a damn good outlet for me to spew the bullshit off my brain.” You loyal readers will recognize that from the first piece as a quote from a podcaster I have grown more fond of in his current career than in his more famous one inside a WWE ring,  Stone Cold Steve Austin. In my head revolved those two quotes, much like “Dental plan.” and “Lisa needs braces.” from the Simpsons.  Like Homer it took a long time for me to connect the two.  I sat for many weeks, the kindling of ideas marinating the the gasoline of those two sound bites, like a monkey doing a math problem I wasn’t making the connection. 

I was confronted in the last few days of November via IM by my friend and extremely patient/persistent publisher, the Valley Mom m(http://www.valleymom.ca), over the last few years she has been both a phenomenal advocate and patient editor/mentor/publisher, to be honest I’m not sure how to define our relationship outside of plutonic and “boop!” On this Sunday evening she was firm and blunt when she basically told me to get my shit together and stop wasting my talent.  I just said “Yes ma’am” and three days later I had the first of these blogs up. That was the spark that landed on the gasoline soaked kindling. 

So here we are. I am making a thing and getting the bulkshit off my brain.  I just want to be clear though, I have almost no idea what I am doing. No one sees these before I publish them. No one is giving me topicsor editing my grammar, spelling and punctuation.   This is me raw, so thank you for reading, I hope you continue as I grow into this and find a voice, not every topic will be deep or have mass appeal, a few of these I have in draft form are for a very specific demographic or fan base, hopefully those outside of those subsets will still enjoy my outlook on them. The main goal I have is simply stay regular and get a new post up on Word Press and Tumblr every Tuesday and add the nuances as I figure them out. 

Spoiler Alert!

The world has grown smaller, information travels nearly instantaneously through the Internet and thanks to social media there is a portion of that information we don’t want but can’t avoid. I don’t mean things like that incident with the girls and that cup, what I am referring are spoilers.   

It seems to me that the only reason many people make time for “appointment viewing” these days is because of the social media spoilers.  Your friend posts a status, a fan page or group posts a behind the scenes story, your favourite team or league posts the scores or a major play, just like that the thrill of watching goes away. The spoilers are so rampant around my favourite show that I do lose a tremendous amount of the thrill involved, in fact just last week I nearly woke up all four kids when I was legitimately surprised to see an athlete return to the show (see what I did there?) Most sports leagues and teams, publish their own spoilers as news headlines all over social media, not recaps or ‘click to find out’, HEADLINES! Right in your news feed with pictures. If you want more of an emotional investment from the fan base stop killing the in the moment thrill of your own product, let us enjoy our first time.

I’m starting to feel like Dennis Miller on this topic lately “I don’t want to get of on a rant here but…” we all have those friends that can’t keep any thought off social media. They instantly post results or breakdowns the second they finish watching something and there it is, usually above the behind the scenes article, the statement that sucks all the fun out of watching something.  I’ve blocked friends, dropped friends, chastised friends, we all have and still the general populous doesn’t get it.  Before I sound too high and mighty I will admit that I have been guilty of spoiling things through various methods myself, so have you, my point is that there are some people that either can’t help themselves or just don’t understand that it takes very little to spoil something and they continue to post things on a regular basis. It’s one thing to slip up, it’s another to make it a way of life.  The flip side to that however is the segment of the populace that not only enjoys spoilers but needs them, the ones that hunt for their gifts in the backs of closets, the rest of us are collateral damage in that symbiotic relationship. 

Many of you are thinking about pages, sites and friends you try to avoid, shows you watch on time and that time you wish you hadn’t checked your social media. I hope a small number of you are thinking you should rethink what you post. I don’t know what has sparked this trend, perhaps it is not a trend and we just now see how many of us tend to spoil things either as a habit or accidental over share. Our posted thoughts reach dozens of people at the least, if those posts are spoilers they are probably frustrating and irritating people you know, you may be one of several similar posts or you may be that lone post that slips through a finely woven filter to take away a few joyous minutes from someone that values the moment of revelation being pure. 

Here is a final thought for you all; over the last few months I have heard many people say the same thing “I’m staying off the internet for a week at least.” because most anticipated film of the last decade is nearly here. Theatres are sold out for days or weeks already, cosplayers are adding final stiches, fan theories are flying like biblical locusts. I beg you, please, for the love of all the Bothans who died to bring us this information, think before you post. Better yet, post not, ruin many good times you will.

Christmas viewing 

It’s that time of the year. TV has gone on hiatus and the Christmas movies are starting to run non-stop.  We all have our favourites and our most loathed, some have slipped through the cracks of our lives and we baffles friends and family with the statement “I have never seen that.” Dropping jaws and eggnogs.  In light of this I figured I would pitch in early and run my list of required viewing for me every year. 

I simply have to start with the best version of Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, The Muppet Christmas Carol. I am a sucker for The Muppets in general, the way they adapted this classic was perfect to me. Involving new creations for the 3 ghosts as well as The Great Gonzo narrating on screen as Dickens himself with Rizzo added just the right Muppet flavour to the timeless tale.  The live actor element is kept to a minimum with Michael Caine as Scrooge for a welcome departure from the cameo laden Muppet films we had prior.

I have a hard time separating these two films in my mind as which is better. Every year the argument over them starts as to whether or not they are Christmas films so let’s run a list: Christmas Tree? Check. Grinch/Scrooge type antagonist? Check. Christmas music? Check. Feel good ending? Check. Protagonist finds a family to belong in? Check.  Meaningful gift giving? Check. So there you have it, indisputable proof that both Die Hard and Lethal Weapon are Christmas films.  I also acknowledge Die Hard 2 I just don’t feel the undeniable urge to see it in December. 

Jumping ahead in our time line is a relatively recent addition to my favourites  Four Christmases with Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon. About the time this came out my parents had split up, I was a single father and had to make arrangements to share my daughters. This modern tale of a couple that can’t escape town as usual and have to make four stops to each other’s divorced parents and endure the modern blended family Christmas with each stop bringing a special dynamic to the table really hit the spot in 2008 and still does.  The dry wit of Vaughn weaves in and out of each scenario meshing with the different personal frustrations of each stop. 

BFM. All you need to know. The second rehashing of Charles Dickens I must see could only be done with BFM. In  Scrooged exist the most terrifying versions of Ghost of Christmas Future and Jacob Marley (Lew Hayward in this film) I love the premise that the three ghosts do their bit yearly and Ebinezer Scrooge was just one of many. If that doesn’t sell you on this Carol Kane blasting Bill F’ing Murray in the face with a toaster should. 

Not much needs to be said about my next enteries. They run every year and have for decades. In fact this year marks the 50th anniversary of A Charlie Brown Christmas, Linus’ speech moistens my eye holes everytime. A Christmas Story, reminds me that nothing is as bad as a pink bunny onsie (I would totally wear one to a Christmas party). These movies deserve “A major award”

“Where do you think you’re going? Nobody’s leaving. Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We’re all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We’re gonna press on, and we’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye. And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he’s gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse.” National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation closes out my required viewing list, how can you not love the efforts of a man to have an amazing holiday with his family only to encounter chaos and disorder along the way, yet he refuses to pack it in. Clark you are my hero. 

Now before I go I will confess that there is a glaring omission on my Christmas film list (no not Elf, I didn’t like that one) but the classic It’s A Wonderful Life. For years I have said I will get to it and for years I have not. Sacrilege, I know, maybe this year.  

Have you ever been wasted? I don’t mean “Bro let’s get some Jäger Bombs!” kind of wasted, I mean not used to your full capabilities wasted. 

I would venture to say everyone has at some point. We can blame our parents, employers, friends, spouses, partners, clients just about any other person on the planet. The way I see it is in every situation the same person is to blame, yourself. We make choices for reasons that justify our situations and no matter how valid those reasons the fact is you made them. I made them. I still make them. I am no different than anyone else in that area, do not mistake this public confession for a “holier than thou” self help rant. 

Recently I confessed on social media that I convince myself daily that any writing I do would not be worth anyone’s time to read or enjoy.  I have heard the feedback on the few things I’ve done, read the comments, even had a surprise in the form of being published in the local paper, yet convincing myself of the opposite is so ridiculously easy it occurred to me that I have easily spent 10,000 hours telling myself that. 10,000 hours, think about that. There is a widely held belief that it takes 10,000 hours to fully master something, to make someone the best at whatever that is. Following that theory I am a master at making sure I will waste any talent I may have.  I can’t handle that any more. 

A week ago I asked a friend of mine who is a comedian and blogger what platform she liked to use, she is on the verge of a life upheaval to follow her own dreams and it sparked some inspiration in me. A few days later my friend, editor and publisher became suddenly stern that I need to get writing, Immediately.  The tone of her message was out of character and dropped gasoline on that spark. So here I am, wasted, just no longer wasting.

I will be honest, I don’t know what you’ll find here in the future. I have no clear vision yet. What I do have is a quote from one of my favourite podcasers (and someone I have grown a new respect for) and an intention. The intention is to post one of these once a week, come hell or high water, find that vision and to chip away at 10,000 hours. 

“This is a damn good outlet to spew the bullshit off my brain” Stone Cold Steve Austin.