Sunday, December 25, 2016

ain't that mr. mister

You know what I hate?

Okay. Okay. I know. I know. That list can get pretty long and I'd probably have you here all day. What I meant to say was: you know what occurred to me that I hate? Being called "Mister Josh." I actually don't care for "Mr. Pincus," but I understand that sometimes it's unavoidable, like when it's your turn at the doctor's office and the assistant sticks her head out into the waiting room and calls your name. Or when you're being addressed by an overly polite solicitor on the phone. Or — worse — when you think you're being cool and one of your son's friends says, "Good one, Mr. Pincus!" I usually tell them to call me "Josh," explaining that "Mr. Pincus" was my father. That's usually met with a forced chuckle and "Another good one, Mr. Pincus!" (I went to a concert to see a band with whom my son is pretty close. After the show, my boy introduced me to the band's guitarist. I congratulated him on the great performance and he shyly replied "Thank you, Mr. Pincus, " as though I just watched him in an eighth-grade Christmas pageant.)

A few years ago, a new co-worker was introduced to me on her first day. It was pretty obvious that this young lady was considerably younger than I am. I was probably old enough to be her father. Nevertheless, I smiled and shook her hand and she was escorted away to be presented to the next new colleague. Several days later, I had some interaction with my new co-worker. At the end of our work-related exchange, her parting words were: "Okay. Thanks, Mr. Josh." Those words shot up and down my spine like ice water. I quickly (and firmly... maybe too firmly) responded. "Please." I began, "You can just call me 'Josh.' Please don't call me 'Mr. Josh.' I'm not your mother's new boyfriend." She squirmed a little, returned an awkward grin and sort-of slunk away. Okay. Maybe that last part was uncalled for.

Remember those telephone solicitors I mentioned earlier? Well, they started calling me "Mr. Josh," too. I will sometimes answer my phone even though I don't recognize the suspicious number displayed on the caller ID. I offer a hesitant "hello?" into the receiver and am immediately greeted with a "Hello, Mr. Josh!" delivered in a vague, unidentifiable foreign accent. That makes me shudder. I have now decided that no matter what this guy is selling, proposing or pitching — I ain't interested. He turned me off within the first three words.

Recently, I went to the bank, something I have not done in years. Since I pay all of my bills online and my paychecks are automatically deposited electronically through my employer, I have no need to go to an actual bank. But, just this week, for reasons that are far too mundane to explain, I had to go to the bank. I had a day off from work and I was looking for something to do. At a little before 10 AM, I pulled into the parking lot and wandered in to an empty bank. Obviously, I'm not the only one who no longer goes to the bank. Two tellers were standing silently behind the high counter. As I approached, they both turned, smiled and asked, in unison, if they could help me. Being lazy, I chose the one closest to me. The further-away teller looked dejected as she turned her attention back to the busywork she was doing. I handed my check to be deposited to the young man on the other side of the counter. He confirmed that I was making a deposit. (I suppose the words "FOR DEPOSIT ONLY" in giant capital letters scrawled across the reverse of the check gave him his first clue.) I nodded in the affirmative. He tapped some buttons on some machinery that was out of my line of vision. I heard the whirrrrrr of a printer and the guy handed me a small receipt. Then, as I was folding the receipt into my wallet, he spoke. He spoke those words. Those jarring, cringe-inducing words.

"Anything else I can do for you, Mr. Josh?"

I glared at him and just said, "No." I should have said, "Yes. Don't call me 'Mr. Josh.' And tell everybody else in the world the same thing." But I suppose that would have been asking too much.

...or you can call me 'RJ' or
you can call me 'JJ'...
There used to be a comedian named Billy Saluga. He was popular in the 70s for a character that he created — a cigar-smoking, zoot suit-wearing, loud-mouthed gentleman called "Raymond J. Johnson, Jr." Saluga appeared on a lot of talk and variety shows doing his "Raymond J. Johnson, Jr." shtick. If you are not familiar with (or are too young to remember) his act, it went like this. He would introduce himself with his full name and someone would call him "Mr. Johnson." He would get flustered and explain "You can call me 'Ray' or you can call me 'Jay' or you can call me 'Johnny' or you can call me 'Sonny.' He would proceed to delineate every possible configuration of his lengthy moniker, ultimate ending with: "But ya doesn't hasta call me 'Johnson.' "

I laughed at Saluga's antics back then, but, after all these years, I finally understand his pain.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

people gonna talk

Well, it's December and winter has hit the Philadelphia area. On most mornings, I will wait for my train out on the open-air platform. On days that begin with temperatures in the low 20s, I reluctantly opt for the warmth that the small ticket office offers. I say "reluctantly" because I really have to weigh the situation. Sure, I don't want to stand out in the cold and freeze my ass off, but do I really want to subject myself to what goes on inside the ticket office?

The office (which is only open Monday through Friday from 5:45 a.m. until 11:45 a.m. — and not a minute past!), is tiny, cramped and in desperate need of a good refurbishing. It is a sad, nondescript room with high ceilings, dated, cracked linoleum floor tiles and dingy cream-colored walls. Two adjacent walls have wooden, slat-backed benches that can accommodate three people, if they are courteous enough to occupy their allotted space. Otherwise, those taking refuge in the ticket office are relegated to standing around, scattered haphazardly like prisoners in the exercise yard. The ticket agent — a gray-haired woman in a heavy fleece pullover (no matter what the weather) — sits in a separate little area behind a half-wall of glass. Small as it is, it seems to have been outfitted with all the comforts of home — a microwave and toaster oven, a radio, a small television, three wall calendars, two clocks that display different times and a plethora of snacks all neatly stacked on top of a filing cabinet that looks as though it has not been opened in decades. On cold weather days, such as today, the waiting area inside the ticket office can get pretty crowded, putting standing space at a premium. Most people wait quietly, rubbing their gloved hands together to generate heat. Others, though, choose to loudly engage their fellow commuters in some inane chit-chatty conversation.

Conversation one:
Commuter 1: It sure is cold this morning.
Commuter 2: Yeah, it sure is.
Commuter 1: My office at work is always cold, too. Summer. Winter It's always cold.
Commuter 2: Mine is always hot. All the time.
Commuter 1: Yeah. I guess it's always one or the other.
Conversation two:
Commuter 3: Oh! So, how are you?
Commuter 4: I'm good. How is Jacob?
Commuter 3: Jacob is at college in New York. How is Jacob?
Commuter 4: Jacob is good. Jacob has a new job.
Conversation three:
Commuter 5: Did you park your car in the lot?
Commuter 6: No, they're vicious in that lot. If you have a new car, it will get scratched in that lot.
Commuter 5: I don't have a new car.
Conversation four:
Commuter 7: Is the next train to Jefferson Station on time?
Ticket Agent: I think so. I'm not sure.
Commuter 7: Well, is it reported late?
Ticket Agent: I'm not sure.
Commuter 7: 
Don't you get some kind of report or notice?
Ticket Agent: No, not really.
Commuter 7: Aren't you in contact with someone somewhere?
Ticket Agent: Not really.
Commuter 7: 
So, you don't know when the train is coming?
Ticket Agent: Well, you can check the schedule.
Since the trains are usually late (my train has not been on time in ten years), the amount of time spent standing that close to this mindless, thoughtless, nonsensical rambling can wear on one's nerves. So, I have to decide which is worse: listening to this relentless blather or risk frostbite before the train arrives.

After a few minutes, I always make the same decision. I weave my way through the close crowd and brave the cold.

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

My annual Christmas music compilation is available as a 
at or for a limited time.

This year, it’s a whopping 71 minutes worth of Christmas cacophony that’s sure to ruin your holiday celebration within seconds. You get two dozen eclectic Christmas selections plus a custom full-color cover with track listings – all for you and all for FREE! (That’s right! FREE!) 


(Please contact me if you have trouble with the download.)

Sunday, December 11, 2016

gotta serve somebody

Mrs. Pincus came across two Macy's gift cards in her wallet. My first reaction to this discovery was: "Who the fuck still shops at Macy's?" (I sort of answered this question around this time last year.) Well, we were about to find out, because after dinner last night, we decided to take a quick run up to the Macy's at Willow Grove Mall to use them.

Despite its close proximity to our house and the frequency in which I find myself in the surrounding area, I have not been inside Willow Grove Mall in years. Now considering it is eighteen days before Christmas, we easily found a parking space in the multi-level parking structure. We drove through level after empty level until we had our pick of spots near the Macy's entrance. Macy's was packed with merchandise, but not so much with shoppers. We headed straight for the kitchenware department, where Mrs. P could pick up a few small items to use as gifts or to possibly make a quick turnaround on eBay. The escalator, which cuts vertically right through the center of the store gave us a panoramic view of all three floors... and there were maybe a dozen potential customers roaming aimlessly around the aisles. Maybe less.

Mrs. P perused the shelves of the kitchen department and settled in front of a display of mini waffle irons. Mrs. P calculated the value of the gift cards and piled my open arms high with twelve little boxes, selecting different colors where available. I carefully balanced the boxes and made it to the cashier without dropping a single one.

Somewhere along the way, though, we must have entered into The Twilight Zone.

The large cashier desk was staffed by two older women each standing behind a small computer monitor. One woman, Marie, was helping a young lady who was arranging and rearranging a stack of toddler outfits on the counter. I swear Marie was moving in slow motion. She picked up each item, examining and admiring it before scanning the price tag. Janine, the other cashier, was resting her chin in her hand. Her elbow propped against the top of her monitor. Her eyes were half shut. I approached Janine. "Hi.," I said as I plopped my collection of boxed waffle irons on the counter. Janine did not return my greeting. In slow motion, she began to stack the boxes in a different arrangement. My wife told her that she had a gift card. Janine offered no acknowledgement. She didn't care. She scanned the first box at a painfully slow speed. If she was any slower, she would not have been moving at all. If they would have brought a mannequin over to process this sale, it would have been quicker. After Janine scanned three of the twelve boxes, she fumbled around under the counter and eventually came up with a large plastic bag. She meticulously placed two boxes in the bag and it ripped right down a seam. Janine emitted a disgusted sigh and muttered something that sounded like a complaint. She slowly removed the two boxes from the torn bag. She gathered up the defective bag into a large balled and searched for a trash can. She discarded the bag, reached for a fresh one and started the whole tedious process over again... and she still had nine more boxes to ring up. Midway through the remaining boxes, Janine stopped to have a brief conversation with another sales associate who walked past the cashier desk on the opposite side from where we stood. She also stopped to to comment on the toddler outfits that were still being rung up my Marie. Marie, of course, chuckled and commented as well. Mrs. P and I covertly exchanged glances. Was this really happening? Were we both asleep and having the same surreal dream?

Finally — finally — we were finished. The waffle irons were rung up, bagged and now, I was carrying them away from the cashier. As we walked away, we heard Janine engaging a co-worker in conversation while another customer stood waiting to make a purchase.

My issue with Macy's, when I ranted in last year's post, was the fact that merchandise was so expensive. Comparable items could be purchased at any number of stores for far less than Macy's was asking. Now that we found merchandise at a reasonable price, the sales clerks could not possibly have been less interested in interacting with customers. As a matter of fact, they behaved as though they would rather have been any where else in the world than working at Macy's. I can't figure out why Macy's even bothers with brick and mortar stores. They could very easily take their business to a fully-online entity. They would only have to maintain warehouses and stock help and not be bothered with sales associates who obviously don't want to be bothered themselves.

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

My annual Christmas music compilation is available as a 
at or for a limited time.

This year, it’s a whopping 71 minutes worth of Christmas cacophony that’s sure to ruin your holiday celebration within seconds. You get two dozen eclectic Christmas selections plus a custom full-color cover with track listings – all for you and all for FREE! (That’s right! FREE!) 


(Please contact me if you have trouble with the download.)

Sunday, December 4, 2016

freeze frame

There are two things I love: concerts and technology.

I have been going to concerts since I was a teenager, that means, for those of you keeping score, over forty years. I lost count how many shows I've been to. Unlike many of my contemporaries, I do not have every single ticket stub carefully preserved and filed in an intricate, cross-referenced filing system. I just have to rely on my memory and, so far, it has not failed me yet.

I remember taking a Kodak disposable camera to a Queen concert in 1978. In the glow of the stage lighting and from seventeen rows back, I snapped shot after shot of Freddie Mercury, pirouetting like a choreographed top across the stage. When I had the photos developed, I was disappointed in my photography skills when I viewed a stack of out-of-focus figures in washed out browns, reds and greens.

Years later, as technology advanced and improved, cameras got smaller and better. Now, I had a camera that was lightweight and could take thousands of pictures on a tiny storage disk. Plus, I was now able to shoot video, so I could watch my favorite bands perform my favorite songs over and over again. Thanks to the miracle of the internet, I could share my pictures and videos with the entire world. Of course, everyone in the world wanted to — no, needed to — see my pictures!

The last picture I took at a concert
and the band wasn't even on stage yet.
Now, I was going to concerts and staking out a prime spot stage side so I could record live versions of my favorite songs. I watched bands — bands I really wanted to see live — perform through a three inch by two inch screen. Then, when I got home, I watched my grainy video on my computer screen. Just hours earlier, I could have seen the actual band if I had just lowered my stupid camera. Soon, I wasn't even watching the videos anymore. It took me a while — too long of a while — to really get the absurdity of this situation.

I have since given up recording songs at concerts, Although the videos still remain on the internet, I removed the YouTube link from my website because I'm not posting anything new. Now, I just take one or two pictures on my cellphone during the first song and put my phone in my pocket for the rest of the show. I am enjoying concerts once again  — the way I used to.

If only I could get other people to put their phones away, too. They'd see what they are missing.

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

My annual Christmas music compilation is available as a 
at or for a limited time.

This year, it’s a whopping 71 minutes worth of Christmas cacophony that’s sure to ruin your holiday celebration within seconds. You get two dozen eclectic Christmas selections plus a custom full-color cover with track listings – all for you and all for FREE! (That’s right! FREE!) 


(Please contact me if you have trouble with the download.)