Tuesday, February 26, 2013

smokin' in the boys' room

The rules of public men's rooms are like the rules of Fight Club. The first rule is: "You don't talk about Public Men's Rooms." The second rule is: "You don't talk about Public Men's Rooms." In the interest of setting the record straight once and for all and to enlighten those who have been otherwise misinformed or have strayed from the accepted procedure, I will momentarily break the first two rules — if only for the greater good. I will reveal the unwritten rules of public men's rooms for those who have never entered the inner sanctum and for those who need a refresher course (no pun intended).

Rule 1. No talking. No fucking talking! Do I make myself clear? NO TALKING! Don't talk to me. Don't talk to yourself. Don't talk to anyone. If you must acknowledge my presence, then grunt. You know what I mean - the guttural male "hmrrmm." No actual, recognizable words. Don't tell me anything. Don't try to engage me in a conversation. I can guarantee you that there is nothing — absolutely nothing — that is so important that you need to tell me that can't wait until I'm on the other side of the entrance door. Nothing. I don't care if my goddamn head is on fire. Believe me, it can wait. I don't care if we are under alien attack and they are evacuating the building. It can wait. I swear, I'll be through in a minute. And, under those circumstances, another minute isn't going to make one bit of difference.

Rule 1a. (specific for sports and concert facilities) I don't care how drunk you are, how well your team is doing or how rocking the band is — the rules still apply.

Rule 2. Eyes forward. And keep 'em forward. No looking around. You came in there for a reason and one reason only. So did everyone else. And it ain't a fucking spectator sport.

Rule 3. Leave a buffer. Here's the basic etiquette: There are three urinals on the wall (we'll call them, from left to right, 1, 2 and 3). If you are alone, take position 1. If someone comes in while you are there, they should take 3, leaving 2 as a buffer. If you come in and, due to circumstances of previous poor time gauging, number 2 is taken, take the one closest to a wall. If there is only one available, obviously you have no choice. But, please, abide closely to Rules 1 and 2. I can't stress this enough. Do not make smart-ass comments of "Oh, full house today." Do not make comments of any kind.

If you are lucky enough to visit a men's room with more than three urinals, buffer rules still apply. Occupation of the far extreme right or left is preferred (leaving at least one buffer, as space permits).

Rule 4. Wash your hands. I hate to sound like your mother, but come on! I don't care what kind of pig you are at home, but this is a public bathroom and the public is watching. And if you ain't washing your hands, the public is talking about you. Three drops of liquid soap and a quick rinse under the faucet isn't going to kill you. It may even prove beneficial. Later, you can go back to your usual disgusting (or non-existent) hygiene habits when you're in the comfort of that shit hole you call "home."

There's one more that's not really a rule as much as it's common courtesy. Please. Please! Don't confuse a public bathroom stall with a phone booth. I know we all have cellphones and we think we need to have a non-stop, constant connection with the world. But, for Christ's sake, nobody in the bathroom wants to hear your loud phone conversation. Nobody on the other end of the line wants to hear you in the bathroom and you are not that important that you can't take two minutes out of your busy schedule to clear out your intestines. No one is that important. NOfuckingONE!

Well, that's it. I'm sure that these rules have absolutely no application in women's public bathrooms, but, of course, I have no frame of reference.

Now, if you'll excuse me...


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

step in time

How did you spend your day? I spent mine in a very heated Twitter dialogue with Dick Van Dyke's wife. Yeah, you heard me.

It all started in 1964 when my Aunt Clara took me to see Mary Poppins at the Orleans Theater in northeast Philadelphia. I was totally captivated by the on-screen antics of Dick Van Dyke as the comical, rubber-legged Bert — horrible Cockney accent and all.

Perhaps I've gone back a little too far.

I have been active on Twitter for nearly five years, ever since my friend @Kasten asked me, "Are you on Twitter?" I didn't know what that was, but I was determined to find out. Once I signed up for an account, I couldn't keep my 140-character mouth shut. You think I had a big, opinionated mouth before... sit me in front a keyboard and I spew on about anything and everything. TV, baseball, music, religion — nothing is safe and nothing is sacred.

In addition to friends, I follow several celebrities (comedians @AlbertBrooks and @ConanOBrien; author @RebeccaSkloot; actor @TomHanks). I recently discovered that Dick Van Dyke (@iammrvandy) started tweeting. How cool! I immediately started following. I enjoyed his autobiography this past summer and his self-titled sitcom was always a favorite, so how could it be bad?

It could. It was awful.

Now, I know that Mr. Van Dyke is an innovator in computer animation. He is credited with the creation of 3D-rendered effects used on his TV drama Diagnosis: Murder. So, he is familiar with operating computers. But he is also 87 years old. And his tweets reflected that. At first, there was a lot of "I'm just getting used to this." and "Trying to get the hang of this Twitter thing." Then it progressed to a long string of retweets of fans offering praise to the venerable Mr. Van Dyke. Then, when he was awarded the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, he retweeted the praise all over again.

I had enough.

Yesterday, while riding the train home from work, I innocently tweeted this, from my phone:

and I thought nothing of it. Several minutes later, my friend Matt weighed in with a typical smart-ass comment:

The Internet can't resist a good "dick" joke. I laughed to myself and replied:

and I thought that was the end of it. I was wrong, because I soon received this message directed to me and my tweet:
It was from one Arlene Van Dyke, Mr. Van Dyke's bride of just under a year. And, obviously, she doesn't care for talk like that about her husband. Just the same, nobody smart-asses Josh Pincus. I wasn't about to let this one drop without a fight. (Many years ago, my father-in-law said he never met anyone who held a grudge like I did.) So, I gave it right back to Mrs. Van D. :

I hit "send" and immediately "unfollowed" her husband. I got this reply:

And, again, I thought that was it. Until I got this tweet from someone using the name "Lucille Ball Tribute," a follower of  both Dick Van Dyke and Arlene Van Dyke:

I replied to all parties involved:

I really was. Or at least I planned to. I actually fell asleep during the episode, but I do watch the reruns almost nightly.  The next morning, I turned on my phone and was greeted by this:

Holy crap! Dick's wife is as relentless as I am! So, if she was game, so was I. I kicked off what turned into a lengthy dialogue.

Then, a change of heart....

So, it looks like me and Mrs. Van Dyke are cool. I think I may give Dick Van Dyke another chance. Now, let's Twizzle!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Hello Daddy. Hello Mom.

I love live music. I always have. So it wasn't unusual that, at 10 p.m. on Saturday, Mrs. P and I stood in the darkened concert venue at Harrah's Atlantic City, bathed in the red glow of the stage lighting. Nearly 1200 fans waved their hands in time to the rhythmic beats emanating from the speakers and mimicked the movements of the energetic CeeLo Green at center stage . At this point, the couple who were seated next to me got up and made a hasty exit, obviously offended by the real, uncensored lyrics to the hit "Forget You" — the song CeeLo chose to cap off his performance.

A mere twelve hours later, Mrs. P and I found ourselves in another concert venue. This time it was Philadelphia's Union Transfer. Hundreds of toddlers scurried around our feet as anxious parents tried to keep a handle on their rambunctious offspring. The youthful crowd awaited the arrival of The Not-Its and Big Bang Boom, two kid-friendly bands, that were on-hand to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Kids Corner, the award-winning radio show that originates from WXPN. Of course, Mrs. Pincus and I are not the parents of little ones. We were accompanying my in-laws who brought my two young nieces to participate in the festivities.

As we watched the kids run around — bouncing balls, whacking balloons and munching grilled cheese sandwiches — we smiled. We were reminded of the times we took our own son to concerts. First to kid-oriented shows (like kiddie jam band Trout Fishing in America), then real-live adult performances (like Barenaked Ladies and Moxy Fruvous). He developed a life-long love of music and was soon taking us to concerts. With interests in a wide variety of styles and genres, music took on an important role in his life and eventually led him to his chosen career in broadcasting. So, our "little one" is now almost 26 years old. He grew up listening to Kids Corner and now serves as the show's engineer.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"c" is for cookie

I must preface this by saying how fond I am of Kym. I am very fond of Kym. Mrs. Pincus is too. We really like Kym and her delightful daughter Elle a lot. A whole lot.

There. I think I'm safe now.

As everyone knows by now, it's Girl Scout cookie time. I'm sure you know someone who is selling them. A neighbor, a friend, maybe even your own daughter. Perhaps you've been accosted by a pack of sash-and-merit-badge wearing youngsters waving brightly-colored boxes while exiting the supermarket. I know my wife has purchased a box or two from my niece. Okay, maybe more than a box or two.

Kym's daughter Elle, from what I understand, is a Girl Scout... or the "pre" equivalent of a Girl Scout. Whatever her current rank, she is entitled, and possibly required, to hawk cookies for her troop. Like most parents of Girl Scouts, Kym has solicited her co-workers to purchase a box of cookies. Kym, in her ever-gracious manner, has stressed that a purchase is "not necessary and not required and, by no means, an obligation." Kym called me and asked if I'd like to buy a box of cookies from Elle and she quickly added "no pressure."

"Of course I will," I replied, "I'd be happy to help Elle out!"

That was two weeks ago. That was the last time "Girl Scout cookies" came up in conversation with Kym. I saw or spoke to her nearly every day during that time, as we work closely together. But, the subject of Girl Scout cookies was never broached.

Until yesterday.

I work on the 36th floor of an office building in center city Philadelphia. Kym's office is on the 37th floor and and the 38th floor is the company's main reception area. All floors are connected and accessible by a bank of elevators and a beautiful wooden spiral staircase. I stopped by Kym's office to chat. She was busily pounding away on her computer's keyboard when she suddenly spun around and produced a piece of glossy paper, machine-folded multiple times. She began unfolding and it revealed itself to be a Girl Scout cookie order form. Kym poised her pen at the ready and reminded me that I had promised to buy a box, but I didn't have to if I didn't want to. Reaching for my wallet, I said that I would absolutely stay true to my word. I requested the chocolate and peanut butter ones (whatever cutesy name the Girl Scouts call them) and, as Kym scanned the massive grid of pictures and check boxes, I noticed that I was about to become the very first customer.

"Kym," I asked, "you haven't sold any yet? The cookies have been available everywhere for over a month already."

"I know. I know." Kym answered, still trying to locate the proper space in which to record my order.She scribbled my name on the thin black line, folded my four dollar bills into a paper clip and thanked me on behalf of Elle.

As I was about to head back to my office, Kym shoved a dog-eared copy of Us Magazine in my direction.

"Here," she said, "take this for your wife." Kym has tried to pawn copies of these gossip rags off on me before.

"I've told you before, Kym," I protested, "Mrs. P doesn't read this shit. She doesn't know the so-called celebrities in it and she certainly doesn't care about them."

"Well," she continued, changing gears, "could you run it up to the receptionist on 38 for me?"

I agreed. Another flight of stairs wouldn't kill me. And I could always take the elevator back down to my floor.

I headed out her office door again, when Kym stopped me with a loud "Oh!" followed by a reconsidered "Never mind."

"What?" I inquired.

Kym picked up the nearly blank order form and, with puppy dog eyes and a pouty lip asked, "Do you want to take this up with you and see if you can sell some cookies?"

"No, Kym," I said, "I'm not a Girl Scout anymore."

Monday, February 11, 2013

who's sorry now?

I heard the tone from my smartphone that I had just received an email. I tapped my index finger on the Yahoo Mail icon and my inbox popped up. It was a LinkedIn invitation to "Join My Network" from my former life insurance agent. I stared at the tiny screen in disbelief.

"You gotta be fucking kidding me!," I muttered to myself.

The last conversation I had with him was about six months ago. It ended when I hung the phone up on him while he was in mid-sentence.

Twenty years ago, my father passed away. Just after his funeral, in keeping with Jewish tradition, my family observed shiva, the ritual period of mourning for immediate family. During this time, friends and extended family gather at a designated house and offer condolences and comfort to the mourners. In this case, my brother and I were the mourners and visitors came to my house to pay respect. On Day Two of shiva, my brother introduced me to his friend Jerry. After extending his sympathy on my loss, Jerry made no hesitation in asking how I was fixed for life insurance. He peppered his pitch with the requisite "Y'know, there's no time like the present" and "You don't want to wait" and the clincher: "Think of your child." I told him I would certainly consider his suggestion.

A week or so later, I found myself filling out a lengthy application form. A few days after that, a nurse was in my dining room, jabbing me with a needle and asking me to pee in a cup. Soon, I was paying quarterly premiums at a ten-year, locked-in rate. The life insurance bills came in and I paid them along with my cable bill and Visa bill. They became regular part of the household expenses. After ten years, Jerry renegotiated my rates after only speaking to him briefly. The bills continued as usual.

In early 2012, I received a notice from my life insurance company that my locked-in rate was expiring soon and my premium was about to double. I called Jerry.

"Why are the rates going up so much?," I asked, displaying my lack of knowledge of the insurance trade.

"Well, you're 51 years old now.," he explained, "Rates go up as you get older. You're getting closer to.... well, you know." Oh, I knew, all right.

He began to break down the usual rates for a guy my age and what I should expect to pay in premiums from this point forward. For a new policy, I would be required to take another physical. Because of various circumstances, I was not able to schedule a physical for a few weeks and by that time, my policy would have expired.

I sent Jerry this email: 
What if I don't pay the premium and I am without a policy for a month? If there is no financial penalty, I am willing to risk being without a policy until August. Is that okay? 
His reply was:
 No cause then one of you will die, and your brother will sue my ass. Please don't take that risk.
I was dumbfounded. Here was a guy that I barely knew, that I had no relationship with outside of a professional one and he was smart-assing me over something as serious as life insurance. His livelihood and my life insurance. I replied with a short and to-the-point response. I told him I would no longer be doing business with him. Period.

A day later, Jerry called me. Again, I explained that I did not like or appreciate his flippant answer to my serious question and that I didn't need to be subjected to his cavalier attitude. Then I informed him that he is not the only insurance agent on the planet. I drove my point home the way I drove the telephone receiver back into its cradle. Then, I dialed the number of my longtime homeowners insurance agent and, within minutes, I was back among the insured. Aggravation free.

Jerry's secretary called me a month later. Again, I was shocked. 

"Didn't Jerry tell you about our last conversation?," I asked — then, "Jerry is no longer my insurance agent. I thought I made that clear."

And now, six months after I angrily yelled at him and cut a conversation short with the slam of a phone, he wants me to join his business network.

I feel even better about my decision to seek insurance elsewhere.