To The Suburban Cyclist …

A word to some of the cyclists who live in my area:

I officially dislike you. Immensely.

There’s a reason those raised pieces of cement off the main roadways, sometimes fringed with plots of grass, are called SIDEWALKS. NOT sidebikes. It’s for people like me who use plain old pedestrian power to get around. NOT for you guys.

I do NOT appreciate the fact that, not only am I taking a huge risk crossing street corners, even WHEN I have the right of way, but also when I’m walking along on the sidewalk, and you’re too lazy to ride AROUND me.

I can understand little kids riding on the sidewalk because it’s too perilous for them to be on the road unsupervised. But grown adults?!

And yes, I’m specifically talking to you, Mr. Almost-Ran-Me-Down-Last-Night-As-I-Got-Off-The-Bus. On two wheels, you move a lot faster than I do running, and I’m pretty sure you saw me get off the bus and had enough time to find a way to bike around me. But you didn’t. You scared the crap out of me with your, “Excuse me!”, almost mowed me down, and then proceeded to try and nervously smile and make some lame-ass small-talk.

What’s that? You don’t know HOW? Well, then you shouldn’t be riding a bicycle.

Otherwise, if you want to indicate to me to move to one side (which I shouldn’t even be doing in the first place), then get a bell or a horn for your damn bike.

And I don’t care about your personal views on preferring to run me off the pavement because you don’t want to hurt the grass. You should have thought of that sooner.

Now, not all cyclists in the suburbs are like this. I’m sure there are those who use the road, or reserve their bicycling to parks and whatnot.

For the rest of y’all, take some lessons from your fellow cyclists who bike downtown all the time, alongside just as many – if not more – cars on the roads … use the street.

Better yet, since we’re in suburbia, use the bike lanes where they’re provided. And believe me they are provided – the city even offers maps. See? That’s what they’re THERE for.

Just stop using sidewalks if you’re skilled enough to pedal, stop and steer. I should be more concerned about the outside chance a car might jump the curb. Not you guys.

Sanjaya Must Be Stopped

(Epic Post warning …)

So I’m going to admit two things I should probably be ashamed of:

1) I watch American Idol (when my work-commute schedule allows).

2) I want that guy off the show.

For people who watch, he needs no introduction. For the rest of you who have no clue (and thank goodness I took my meds before writing this, or else I’d be covered in hives), that perma-grinning contestant is Sanjaya Malakar. He’s one of two 17-year-old contestants on this season of American Idol. And he can’t sing.

I’ve never professed to be a singer, period. But I’m pretty sure I could sing better than him.

Now, I know I’m probably going to get rained on by from 11-year-old girls and other members of Team Sanjaya (including my dad!), who think I should be ashamed of myself for even saying such things, ’cause he’s just doing his thing, etc.

But for some reason that boggles me and many others who feel this way, every week, he gives what would be a middle-of-the-road, mediocre performance. And every week so far, someone who sings way better than he does gets kicked off the show.

And in addition to his crazy tapioca warbling, there’s another thing driving me absolutely batty.

His hair.

Yes, there are guys out there with long hair. It’s not a new concept. But seriously? He looks like a girl. If it was shorter, or if he had a bit of facial fuzz, I could probably deal. But no. And not just his hair. It’s the things he does with it. The picture above is usually how he wears it. But lately, he’s been messing in a whole ‘nother type of wrongness.

A few weeks ago he decided to dabble with a man-perm probably not seen since the days of disco (or Wayne Gretzky in his early days as an Oiler):

Do me a favour. Please. Do NOT call this a ‘fro. I have a ‘fro. I (and millions of other people like myself) have earned the birthright to the ‘fro.

And you don’t mess with birthrights.

If I hear someone ever use that term sacreligiously to describe this mess, I will hunt you down and smack you. I have ways and means.

And these days, that includes Facebook.

LAST night, he had the audacity to do this while completely mangling one of the few No Doubt songs I really like:

Everyone called it a faux-hawk. I call it the Seven Ponytails of Hell. And because of it, he caused host Ryan Seacrest to create a new verb when tonight, Seacrest came out in a fake wig in the same seven-ponytail design and proclaim: “I’ve been Sanjaya-ed.”

Whatever he’s doing, it’s causing enormous numbers of people amongst the tween set (and maybe his five dozen relatives) to pick up their phones and start voting furiously when the lines open for audience members each Tuesday night.

He even made this 13-year-old girl cry uncontrollably last week for an entire hour :

The story I read says she was overjoyed when Sanjaya hit the stage.

Really?

NEVER make this girl upset.

But he’s doing more than making little girls cry. He’s making people like me grouse about this to their fitness trainers, dentists, co-workers, podiatrists, doctors, falafel-stand owners and taxi drivers.

He’s even given a woman in New York the most bizarre reason to go on a hunger strike, now in its 12th day. She even has an explanatory You Tube video.

Forget global warming and obesity. This will kill us all first, starting with that girl.

Since it’s evident no matter what he sings, he’ll continue to crush fellow contestants in his wake, I have a theory and a solution to end the madness:

My theory: It’s not his voice keeping him on the show. It’s his hair.

So someone, in a stealth operation, needs to take an electric shaver to his head.

It’s totally Samson and Delilah. Fuh serious. Samson had his strength in his hair. And Sanjaya’s carrying his luck somewhere in that shaggy mop.

No need to shave him completely bald. Just give him a stylish, not-so-shedding-on-the-carpet coif. That way, once people can see his face, they’ll come to their senses.

Boy is probably overdue for a haircut, anyway.

Even now, he’s done enough damage to secure himself in the Top 10 and a place on the tour that takes place when the show is over.

But for right now, I want to be able to see and hear properly when I watch TV on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. For the love of God.

Sound Off: FINOs…

There’s something that’s reeeeally beginning to annoy me a bit about Facebook (and maybe life in general).

You know those people who request to add you as one of their friends, and then proceed to never talk to you, or leave a message on your wall? Nothing?

They’re in this new special category I’ve created, which I call Friends in Name Only, or FiNOs. (Or, in the case of Facebook, they’d be called FFiNOs.)

WHY do they DO that? I know it’s tempting finding all these people and adding them to your lucrative list. But it’s not a contest. And believe me, I actually understand that you can’t talk to everyone all the time.

But once in a while, holla at a sista, yo?

I’m sure you could apply this concept outside Facebook as well. I’m sure there are tonnes of people who are like that. They say they’re your friends, but then don’t do anything, or are never around.

And I don’t mean periods of time where they’re around you lots, or here and there, and then disappear because of work, life, or whatever (because I’m sure I’m an extremely guilty party in that respect).

I mean, they’re NEVER. AROUND. You “befriended” them in 1999 and, even though you might exchange a “hi!” in passing them that one time every three years or so, you now only hear about their lives through other people, who basically tell you stuff as if you still do talk to them regularly (even though the truth’s to the contrary). That’s the only reason you know they’re even still alive.

I think I may have one of those circulating right now. And maybe they have their reason for doing so. Maybe they ARE just busy. Or it’s part of the psychological game they like to play with certain people in their lives.

But if this is true, I’d rather that they didn’t add me (or have me) as a friend in the first place.

Sound Off: Office Slobbiness

    On my last day as fill-in for another job in our office, the people I was working for this week had this yearly meeting to plan their vision for the fall.I was entrusted with the job of overseeing the set-up of the lounge in which they were having this meeting — making sure they had their flipcharts on easels with markers, a portable CD player should they need it, and enough tables, chairs, food, whatever.

    Fine. That went smoothly enough.

    At day’s end, I had to go upstairs to retrieve a few things and lay down a tablecloth as a favour to someone else, whose show was having a similar meeting the following day.

    I get up there, open the door to the lounge and round the corner.

    Good. GOD. WHAT a sty!

    There was leftover fruit from an earlier spread, stuck to the table. Coffee rings. Discarded water, juice bottles, pens. I even found an empty Starbucks cup (I’m guessing it was the “grande” size – I dunno, I don’t drink Starbucks or coffee, period) under one of the armchairs! It’s not like there wasn’t a trash can – it was in the middle of the room. And NOT even full!

    Believe me, I’m far from being the cleanest person in the world. I know things can get a bit messy at all-day meetings. I even know that yes, in our office building, we have cleaners that come in to tidy up after us.

    But just lemme hop up on the old soapbox for a second.

    On my favourite TV show, there’s a character – a villain, if you will – who’s had his hand hacked off with an axe, by another character.

    In the space of three episodes, he’s somehow managed to:

  • wake up from the shock that’s knocked him out
  • wrap his stumpy, bleeding arm and leave the woodshed in which he was amputated
  • stagger through the woods
  • find himself a cooler in which to place – and chill – his severed hand
  • lope off with said cooler for medical help, and had to settled for a veterinarian
  • threatened aforementioned vet by screwdriver to sew on the hand, without anaesthetic
  • did NOT pass out, but vomit after his hand was re-attached
  • kill the veterinarian by lethal injection and take his clothes
  • dye his hair with peroxide
  • take the dead vet’s SUV and is currently driving to Utah

… all with the use of ONE. HAND.

So tell me this: if a fictional criminal can do all that, with all that loss of blood, and LIVE, how is it that, in a room full of grown adults — university-educated professionals — there’s NO ONE that could pick up just a tiny bit after themselves?

Just sayin’.

Annoying Transit Habit #6 : Seat Crushing

I had finally reached the end of my cross-city travels for the day, having run around for the last several hours picking up much needed items for my trip.

Having just missed the Middlefield bus, I raced toward the McCowan bus, which luckily had no driver as yet. It was barely even full, which was a bigger bonus.

I lugged myself and all my bags (including a new carry-on backpack for my trip) to the very back of the bus – in the corner – and sat down.

Of course, I noticed a couple of the passengers staring at me. I hate people who stare. It makes me feel like I’ve got two heads or something. Plus I think it’s just plain rude. So I stared right back at them until they’d look away. Then I’d catch them staring at me again (or maybe in my general direction), so I’d look right back at them.

Then one of them, a middle-aged East Indian guy with one of those briefcases with all the compartments (who had been standing mid-way down the bus from me), decides to sit down. Not in a seat where he could take advantage of all the space. Not in the middle of the empty back row, which only had one other passenger, sitting at the back on the other end of the row. Right next to me.

And the ride only got worse from there. Until the man got off at Finch, it was like he was trying to crush me and my multiple bags out of my seat. He was practically pressing up against me. At one point, I’m pretty sure I was leaning to the right to avoid his elbow, which was practically digging into my ribs. For serious – he was sitting with his elbows sticking straight out. I kept trying to straighten up to regain some of my buffer zone and to let him know without saying anything that he was crowding me out. Apparently he either didn’t get it or was used to sitting among people smaller than me.

At one point, I straightened up and nudged him. Of course, stupid me, I said “sorry”. (I’ve GOT to stop doing that.) I was so relieved when he got up.

I know that the seats themselves don’t allow for a lot of room. But what happened to respect for personal space?

This isn’t the first time this has happened. I remember getting crushed against the wall of a subway car months ago by this really thick black woman. Not fat. Thick. And the winter jacket only added to it. She pinned me in the bucket seat for, like, 14 stops. It was unbearable. I couldn’t even take a nap, it was so uncomfortable.

Seriously, seat-crushers – ease UP! Maybe I look slender or something to you. Believe me, I’m not. Give me a couple of inches’ worth of buffer space! It’s folks like you that make me hate public transit. Grrr!

Subway Pet Peeves (or, how to keep from getting stabbed)

I have been wanting, nay, waiting to write this post. I almost didn’t ’cause it’s not exactly original. But in light of the stabbings in New York (two were subway-related) and the long trek home today (damn police investigation at St. George), it seemed almost fitting.

As an increasingly-seasoned commuter, I’m used to the subway and most of its quirks. But as someone who’s admittedly neurotic, there are just some things that, on top of delays and suddenly out-of-service trains, can turn the TTC into the Crankypants Express.

So if you don’t fancy getting attacked by a crazy commuter at her wit’s end, wielding a nail file or Swiss Army knife she stole from a fellow passenger, then I suggest maybe NOT doing any of the following:

1 Mouth noises. The sub-categories:

a) Loudly smacking, cracking and/or popping gum.
My biggest pet peeve. Ever. It’s the ultimate aural assault. I’m not sure who exactly thought it was a cool idea to use chewing gum to demonstrate their impression of a Christmas cracker, but it needs to stop. Okay, okay. Hearing you chew your gum when I’m four metres away or less? Almost understood. Hearing you half a subway car away? Oh, hell no. Why do I have to listen to the oral percussion? Do you know how many 15-minute naps I’ve missed out on ’cause of you guys? Oh, if there was a way to put all the gum-poppers in designated cars so the rest of us could have some relative peace, man, I would. But since I don’t have that power … I. Don’t. Want. To. HEAR. You.

b) Open-mouthed gum chewing.
Sometimes accompanies a), but just as annoying as hell on its own. Maybe you think you’re just chewing gum. But in actuality, you look like a COW. It’s. NOT. Attractive. I saw a young woman early the other morning on the subway doing this. She’s probably quite pretty, but you wouldn’t have known, since she looked like she was preparing her cud for her second stomach. I don’t care if you think smacking your lips together and rolling the wad around inside your mouth gives you more attitude or whatever. It doesn’t. And I’m sure it gives you premature age lines ’round your mouth.

c) Open-mouthed food chewing.
Like b), only worse. Also saw – or rather, heard – this on the subway the other morning, and was glad I only had to endure it for a few stops. But MAN was it painful. I didn’t know this man two seats away had just unwrapped his morning meat sandwich until he started eating it. Smack-mack-smackety-smack … gaaaaah! Makes me want to smackety-smack you! Listen, I understand the life of a commuter. If the trip is long, we all need to eat, whether on the way down to work, or to tide us over until we get home. But you don’t need to let me know! Quit it with the slack-jawed mastication.

d) Phlegm-fighting (a.k.a. guttural noises, horking, etc.).
It’s disgusting. If it’s in your nasal passages, use a tissue and blow it out.

2 – Nosepicking.

How old are you, six? What’s next, eating school paste? How is it possible that grown adults are digging for gold while sitting or standing in what’s essentially a public venue, and they don’t for a minute think they’re being watched? And then the same folks will hold on to the subway poles as they’re standing to leave the train. It’s like SARS never happened. Psst … hey. People are watching. No, I’m for serious. They’re watching, and then going to work or home and talking about you and how disgusting you are. If you do it ’cause you fidget, then find a hobby for those idle digits! Learn to knit! Do a puzzle! Finger yoga? I’m sure they have some special exercises for that. Scratch your nose if you must. But please don’t pick.

3 – Loud talking/cellphone conversations. It’s a given – everyone’s gotta talk. Sometimes, you need to communicate on your phone. But hello?! Why the hell do I need to hear you on the other side of the subway car? Or bus? Or streetcar? What you have to say to your friend(s) or girlfriend or boyfriend or spouse is none of my business. And I’m sure if I was turned your way, attentively listening to your conversation, you’d either give me cut-eye or ask me what the hell my problem is. Bottom line: if you can’t have a conversation without shouting, you shouldn’t be having it. Either wait for a period of peace and quiet when you can hear – and talk – properly or take it elsewhere.

4 – Rushing subway doors as they’re closing. I admit, I’ve done this. But I’m reformed. I’ve learned that rushing the doors slows the train down. Worse: if you get a Crankypants Conductor, you get The Lecture. Translation: 30 extra seconds of your life is wasted, because you have to listen to someone who dislikes his job, telling you that you’re wasting his time. It’s so counterproductive. Sometimes, it’s kinda dangerous. I once saw this dude rush the doors at Kennedy Station. He almost made it. He was stuck in the straps of his teal knapsack, which was wedged between the doors, and had to wait until the train reached Warden for him to free himself. He looked like an ass. (Man, I wish I had a camera.) Just wait for the next train.

Honourable mentions:

Singing/Whistling/Loud music listening. These are my personal neuroses. But somedays I don’t want to hear any of it. In the case of loud music listening: I shouldn’t be able to know exactly what you’re listening to. Either get earphones that don’t leak or get your hearing checked. There’s nothing that’s going to be sadder than a generation of 30-somethings who can’t hear ’cause they punished their eardrums.

Farting. I know. Disgusting. But if you don’t want someone pulling the emergency alarm, either fart in your seat when you’re sitting down, or lean up against something. Don’t be holding a pole near bucket seats and think no one’s going to notice if you let one rip.

All that aside: I’m not actually saying that any of this will get you stabbed like the two poor dudes did in New York. But they literally were stabbed for no reason at all. They were minding their own business. I can’t think of what would be a good reason to stab someone. Can you?

So here’s my public service announcement: If someone asks you for your money, cellphone, whatever. Don’t fight them. Just give them what they want.

Unless you’re bigger than your attacker and think you can take him no problem. In that case … I don’t advise dudes high on machismo. You’re on your own, sucka.