Things That Suck, by John Ostrander
I’m growing older, approaching cranky-old-manhood, and there are increasing number of small petty things that simply annoy me, dagnab it. Since I can write whatever I durn well please in this here column, I’m just going to indulge myself with a couple of rants on different topics and nothing unites them beyond the fact that I’m a cranky old fart. Yessir.
Grocery stores. The grocery stores I use have self-checkout lanes. These are new contraptions and, as such, on general principles I’m agin ‘em. However, in theory, they get me out of the store faster and that’s a boon so I use them most of the time. What I hate is that the damn things nag ya! They have this voice that keeps walking me through the process. I know how to use it. I don’t need it to keep telling me. It has the same disapproving female voice as Sister Mary Water Closet back in the third grade. I don’t need to hear that voice again, thank you very much!
It would be nice if you could refuse its help but you can’t! Screaming at it to “shut the fuck up!” only gets you stares from your fellow shoppers. Telling it that, “If I wanted to be nagged I’d dig up my mother!” is ineffective and sets small children to weeping, bringing store security. They and the IRS are not well equipped in the sense of humor department.
The damn things never give you a chance. You’re in the process of doing what you’re supposed to be doing when it tells you what to do!
“Scan the item.”
“I’ve scanned it, moron.”
“Put the item in the bag.”
“It’s already in the bag. Let’s move on.”
“Please put the item in the bag.”
“Open your electronic eyes! It’s in the bag!”
“Do you wish to continue?”
“I wish to rip your electronic voice out!”
“Please wait for cashier assistance.”
The cashier is, of course, helping one of the other benighted souls locked into battle with the express self-checking system.
It’s all made worse by the mother whose adorable tyke is screaming, “I want to do it!” Mom decides that scanning the items would be a wonderful learning experience for little Susie or Jimmy. Maybe the child wants to push the buttons on the payment device keyboard and mucks it up horribly because they want to push the buttons they want to push and not the buttons that need to be pushed. The buttons they are actually pushing are mine. It’s all I can do to keep from screaming, “Do you know who you’re dealing with, for Ghod’s sake?! I’m the writer on Wasteland! I’m not all that stable to begin with!”
Of course, as soon as you’ve completed your transaction, the electronic voice is saying, “Please pick up bags” while muttering under its breath, “… and get the hell out of here.” Don’t tell me it isn’t! I’ve heard it!
I’m probably one of the best reasons I know for not letting people walk around with guns. There would be broken electric scanners all over the supermarkets of Northern New Jersey if I was armed. At least.
New Jersey drivers. Would somebody please get around to explaining to the moron majority of my fellow drivers in NJ that “merge” is not the same meaning as “meld?!” When youmerge, it means that two roads or two lanes come together as one and the traffic adjusts to the new traffic flow, first one car and then the other. “Meld” is what happens when two cars try to occupy the same place of space and time resulting in one twisted object devoid of life.
It is required for the car that is merging to wait for a space into which it can slip. If you have the “merge” sign, then you wait for the gap to occur before plowing on. You pause. You sit. You wait your moment. Patience is a virtue and your Ghod is giving you this chance to exercise a little of it. Thank Him/Her/It and sit!
On the other hand, if there is a three or four car gap and I choose to make use of that to merge, it is unnecessary for the driver behind to speed up in an effort to cut me off. I don’t care what your favorite video game tells you, this maneuver does not gain you extra points. Especially as we’re both likely to wind up a car length apart at the next freaking red light a block away!
Same thing is true for highway entrance ramps. I especially hate it when the next car speeds up to cut me off as I enter and yet there is a whole empty lane next to them. I got news for you, pally. Your superhero identity is not “Captain Leadfoot” and your battlecry is not, “Only Speed Can Save Me Now!” I know that because I am Captain Leadfoot and that is mybattlecry! Get your own!
Could be worse, I suppose. They could be Connecticut drivers.
Appreciation. I learned recently that there was a vote for 100 best writers wherein one voter added me to his votes as the “under-appreciated John Ostrander.” Mind you, I am thankful for the vote and don’t disagree with the evaluation. I’ve heard a number of folks note, sometimes in print, that I am “under-appreciated.” Why the hell is that?! My sweetie, Mary, appreciates me. I know that. My friends, my family, my co-workers, my editors (most of the time), and my fans all seem to appreciate me just fine. So just who are these people who are “under-appreciating” me? What the hell is wrong with them?
Bigger question – when are they going to start appreciating me? I’m not getting any younger, folks. I’m a nascent cranky old fart as is. Appreciating me when I’m dead doesn’t do me a whole lot of good. Appreciate me now so I can bask in my own glory and maybe make an extra buck or two off of it. Appreciate me before my body depreciates any further.
Mike Royko, the late great Chicago newspaper columnist (columns – that’s what we had before blogs, folks), claimed that the unofficial Chicago motto should be “Ubi est mea?” Translated: “Where’s mine?” I’m making that my Official motto: Ubi est mea?
I want a parade in my honor. I want a day of appreciation. I want to be over-appreciated until it balances out all the under-appreciation I’ve gotten. I want screen-savers with my picture on it. I want an action figure of me. No, wait. Editors might want them too and they’d use them to stick needles into. “Script is late, Ostrander?! Now you shall know pain!”
I want a functioning TARDIS. Barring that, any functional time-machine would do. Mr. Peabody’s Waback Machine would be acceptable. (Yes, I’m dating myself. It’s a dirty job but somebody has to do it.) Mostly, I want it so I can step out of real time and get some of my work finished without editors sticking pins into action figures of me. That’s all. Well, and maybe jumping ahead just far enough to see what the winning numbers are on the next Mega-Millions lottery jackpot. And maybe unhang some chads in the presidential election eight years ago. No major meddling in history, I promise. You can trust me.
After all, I’m the guy who wrote Wasteland, right?
Famed GrimJack / Munden’s Bar / Suicide Squad / Star Wars: Legacy writer John Ostrander is the guy who wrote Wasteland… usually with Del Close.