The Facebook

After 12 years with no breaks, I have given up Facebook. I didn’t disable my account, I simply removed the app from my phone and I don’t look it on the computer. I’m off the grid.

It’s weird, but it has kind of become a fun challenge. Not all of it is good. I miss seeing pictures of people’s families, vacations and their day-to-day observations of life. I miss seeing the jokes of a dozen or so of the funniest people I know. I’m connected to most of my Facebook friends only through Facebook. They don’t know where I live, I don’t think they have my phone number and I can’t see any of the private messages they send me. Those are the unfortunate things about my temporary leave of absence.

For a while, I tried to adjust my settings so that I didn’t have to see the many posts of people who have opposite political opinions from me. It’s not that I don’t respect opposing opinions, but it is that I don’t want to hear your unsolicited opinions on things every day. For the most part, a lot of that was screened out through the “unfollow” and the “restrict” settings. It didn’t catch all of it though. I can’t even tell you what percentage of my Facebook friends feel the need to share every political thought in their head with all of their Facebook friends because I don’t know. I do know that all it takes is for a handful to slip through the restriction cracks and you end up learning reasons why you wouldn’t want to be real (not Facebook) friends with that person. It’s interesting how people have evolved from mostly keeping some things private and not freely sharing so much of their thoughts with online acquaintances to the complete opposite of that. More of a regression than evolution, I suppose.

I’m far from being innocent in this. Often times after reading an opposing opinion that was on my newsfeed, I would put a post on my wall that I found to be an interesting truth or what I thought was a funny jab at the opposing viewpoint. Most of the time I did that, there was always someone who took offense to it. Just about every time, the person taking offense was someone who made caustic posts themselves. I didn’t (and don’t) feel that an apology is warranted in those situations. I’m often sorry that the exchange led to hard feelings and the destruction of otherwise fulfilling relationships but I’m not going to apologize for a post. Sorry the situation happened but not sorry that I’m going to read your posts that I don’t agree with and then you’re going to get publicly insulted and offended when I make reference to an opposing viewpoint? I’m not sorry about that. I have no use for people who can dish it out but get nasty when they get a taste of their own. This type of thing has happened several times in the last few years and each time it wore me out.

Admittedly, I am to blame for half of it. Most of the time, I can ignore things and go with a “to each his own” philosophy. As a pandemic, police brutality, racial tensions and the odd mannerisms of American leadership occupied the news (and timelines) at every turn, my ability to ignore things started to wear down. I am a believer in the philosophy of remaining silent indicates a tolerance for certain behaviors. As the All Lives Matter chorus started in along with the defenders of what I view as indefensible behavior from our “leaders” started to appear more and more on my timeline, I started to have enough. On occasion, I would post something that I knew would likely upset some people and I’m not proud of that. I struggled at first with whether or not to make Facebook, the place where I go to have lighthearted fun, the place where I speak out. For the most part, I couldn’t make that full transition. I didn’t want to use it for that kind of platform when it has been a place where I post jokes, short stories and pictures and videos of my family. I decided that, just as I would normally, I won’t let any of that stuff get by me without saying something in my personal interactions. That’s a nice idea, but it became nearly impossible for me to remain silent on Facebook.

Rather than continuing to worry about maintaining my self control and becoming someone that I don’t want to be, I elected to take my first break from Facebook. I’m only on day two and one could argue that if I’m posting a lengthy, introspective blog post about it, that it hasn’t been easy on me, but it has. I haven’t checked it and haven’t been curious about what’s going on there once.

I made my announcement to take a break in more of a dramatic fashion than I should have. Over the years, I have seen many people threaten to disable their account and have also seen the pathetic and hollow threats to narrow down friend lists. If you’re going to do that, just do it. Don’t just threaten us with it, take action. I explained some of my reasons for taking a break, advised people not to bother responding to my post because I’d be off before I could read it and said I didn’t know when I’ll be back, because I don’t know if it will be weeks or months. I’ll be back, but I need to recharge my ability to ignore things that I don’t like. I need to figure out why some people who call others “snowflakes” don’t see the hypocrisy in being appalled at an opposing viewpoint. I may never figure that out, but having some much-needed time away from arguing with people I went to high school with and haven’t seen since isn’t worth the time and energy that I started to put into it. I have had a really nice life without those people being a part of it and can easily go back to that. If a person isn’t adding value to a relationship, there doesn’t need to be a relationship – it’s that simple, I guess.

Anyway, that’s my story. I’m excited to dedicate some time to writing a book for my family. The idea came from a very thoughtful Father’s Day gift from them and I haven’t been as excited to try something new like that for a long time. So, everything is good, I’m getting my head on straight and trying to work on keeping from falling into a pit of behavior that is generally out of character as compared to my relatively peaceful natural state of being – all of this while the world is crumbling around us.

Things will get better though. They always do.

 

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Radio Active

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I’m listening to a Nation of Islam broadcast on one of those public radio stations where the channel begins with an 8. I can’t change the channel because of the guy’s cadence and the fact that he is speaking with such conviction but he’s saying things that don’t even make sense. It is fascinating to me. It seems that his emphasis is more about how his voice sounds good on the radio, instead of thinking about what words are coming out of his mouth. He was trying to say something about the subject he was talking about being a zero sum game but he didn’t use that phrase. Instead, he said, “it’s like algebra. Where 5 = X x Y.” I guess it is like that if we let X=2.5 and Y=2, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t doing that math and it was just a terrible analogy.

Anyhoo, I rolled up through the dry cleaner’s drive through pickup lane and picked up my dry cleaning as I was listening to the program. I forgot to turn down the radio until after she had already opened the back door of my car, spent some time finding and fiddling with the clothes hanger inside of my car. So she had her head in the car with the speakers blaring commentary that may very well have included the N-word and some pretty aggressive sounding speech in general while loading my clothes.

I didn’t even think about what was playing on the radio and just thanked her and drove away. Hopefully, she didn’t write down my license plate number and turn me in to the authorities so that I’m on some sort of watch list.

Just another day of being me.

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The Bush Leagues

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I tend to enjoy minor league baseball more than big league games because it seems like more entertainment for less money. We’re fortunate to have a very minor league team right here in our town that has some pretty good promotions on occasion.

One promotion that I think they might need to work on is the one where during each home game, a “lucky” fan can be selected to spend the entire game hanging from the right field fence wrapped in a Velcro suit and staring directly into the sun for the duration of the game. If this lucky person happens to catch a home run ball, they get a free fireworks show to be held at their home.

Nothing against a free fireworks show but I think going through all that crap is worth more than a chance to piss off your neighbors by shelling the skies above their homes with ordnance. If the prize were $1million, I’d still have to think long and hard about whether or not to subject myself to heat-hanging in right field for three and a half hours in a black Velcro suit.

I think the deal should be that if you hang on that wall for the entire game without complaining, neither federal, state nor local laws should apply to you for 48 hours. Give that person a chance to do whatever they want for 48 hours with no legal consequences? Now we’re talkin’. Sign me up! Otherwise, good luck finding suckers to take you up on that deal. On second thought, there are a lot of hillbillies around here and hillbillies love fireworks and explosions so maybe they know what they’re doing after all?

 

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Incompetence At The Brazier

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If you heard the faint cry of a man who sounds like he might be irritated enough to destroy a Dairy Queen Brazier (brick-by-brick with his bare hands), it was just me. 

Driving through the wastelands of Ohio to arrive at my destination only to find a Dairy Queen Brazier and a gas station as my options for food. I have never willingly eaten a meal cooked by Dairy Queen Brazier in my life but I settled into the idea and purchased one cheeseburger and a Peanut Buster Parfait (I used to like those when I was a kid). They handed me my order through the window and the Parfait looked a bit full but I figured these people work at Dairy Queen so I’m sure they know what they’re doing. I pop the top on the Peanut Buster Parfait and fudge and ice cream get all over me – to the point that I look like I’ve been serving ice cream to rural Ohioans all day. The guy might as well have just saved the plastic container and poured it directly into my cupped hands.

I took a bite and sat it on the ground outside of my car so that I could clean up with the limited napkins I have and finish my hamburger before I figure out how to carry a two pound Peanut Buster Parfait over to the trash can in a wet bag without making a huge mess in the parking lot of this hotel. NEVER assume that a Dairy Queen professional knows what they’re doing because that would be an incorrect assumption. Or maybe he figured that I was an a-hole and knew exactly what he was doing? In either case….DAMMIT!

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Like Many Things, It’s Not As Simple As It Used To Be

I’m not Catholic but on occasion I do enjoy attending fish fries and other festivals they put on down there at the Catholic Church. It’s nice to do a little sinning with folks I don’t normally sin with – with all of their religious-sanctioned drinking and the gambling.

I went to a fish fry tonight. Man, was that some good fish! After eating enough fish that we started to worry about mercury poisoning, we put down the forks and walked over to check out the bingo parlor, thinking it might be fun to play a few rounds of bingo on a belly full of fish.

We walked up to the table where they were selling bingo cards. It was staffed by four or five church people sitting behind stacks and stacks of different colored bingo cards for sale. This was obviously an operation that was way more sophisticated than your garden-variety bingo. In an effort to better understand our options, we tried to declare ourselves as novice bingo players to the staff selling the cards. I mentioned a few times that we were unfamiliar with their terminology and could use some suggestions and maybe some explanations of the available options. Either the lady that was talking with us didn’t hear me or she had a hard time believing that somebody at a Catholic fish fry in the basement of the Catholic Church wouldn’t be familiar with bingo terminology.

All we knew is that we wanted to play now instead of waiting an hour and a half for the bigger games later. She kept repeating that there were early games available and, of course, “the jitney.”

She spoke of the jitney as if we knew full well what it was. I think I made myself pretty clear that we weren’t familiar with recreational bingo halls or a jitney. She ignored my direct and indirect inquiries about the jitney, but kept mentioning that we should get in on the jitney.

After about five minutes of this, we politely walked away from the bingo table. I am one who likes to know what they’re betting on so, in the absence of clear definition, I neglected to join in on the whole jitney thing.

We left the church still puzzled about the jitney. When we got home, we did an exhaustive Internet search: “jitney”, “bingo jitney”, “bingo words that sound like chutney”, etc. to see if we could increase our bingo knowledge. No luck. I couldn’t find anywhere that talked about or defined the word jitney.

I guess at this point, I would almost rather not know what jitney is and just enjoy this uncertainty with the whole thing. I suppose if any of you are familiar with what a jitney is as it applies to bingo, maybe you can clue me in through the comments on this post?

Now that I know bingo is so complicated, I have a better appreciation for why the elderly have so much difficulty with programming their DVR‘s – because their head is full of complicated bingo definitions and rules, there’s no room for anything else.

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This Boy Is On Fiiiiyyyyyaaaaaa!

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After a long day on a solo work trip to Atlanta, Georgia, I checked into my hotel, unpacked my suitcase, grabbed a courtesy copy of The Wall Street Journal from the hotel lobby and headed out to The Cheesecake Factory for dinner. Nothing unusual about any of that; except for the selection of The Cheesecake Factory, that’s how just about every day is when I’m on a work trip.

The hostess seated me at a table for two in the middle of the fairly crowded restaurant and I ordered a beer as I browsed the incredibly lengthy, spiral-bound menu before settling on a Factory Burrito and placing my order. It was now officially “me time”. I sipped my beer and got lost in one of the mundane business articles in the Journal.

There is comfort in this routine for me. I am completely ok with going out to dine alone in a full-service restaurant after spending many years on the road doing it every night. It’s just a relaxing time where I don’t have to really think about much. I don’t have to be customer service guy, sales guy, operations guy or problem solver guy. I’m just Frank. I’m Frank with an empty hole in my abdomen who gets to fill that void with a nice meal on somebody else’s dime. I don’t have to carry a conversation or impress anyone. I’m free to be me and my job is to relax and eat until I hemorrhage if I want – all choices are mine after 5pm local time.

Anyway, back to my story. As I raised my mug to take a drink while reading the paper and waiting on my burrito, I barely noticed that a small drop of condensation fell from the mug to the newspaper. As that happened, a waitress walked by and made what I thought was a remark about that small drip. I nodded my head at her and half-smiled as if to be kind of nice but to non-verbally give her the idea that it was a small droplet of water and it really wasn’t a big deal, hoping she’d see that I really just wanted to be left alone. I noticed she looked a bit panic-stricken and she yelled, “NO! Your paper is on fire!!!”

I moved the paper to take a look and saw that the back page had dipped itself into the candle on the table and half the page was engulfed in flames. I quickly grabbed my napkin and patted-out the flames just before the use of a professional grade fire extinguisher would have been necessary. My white linen table cloth was now full of black ashes and all eyes were on me in the restaurant. (Probably the nightmare scenario of someone who has reservations about dining alone.)

Nobody was hurt and the restaurant sustained no notable damage so I did another one of my smirks and nods in a sweeping look around the restaurant to indicate there’s nothing more to see here and that everyone should go back to minding their own business and I read the rest of that freshly charred paper, finished my burrito and took a slice of cheesecake back to my hotel room.

This was kind of a long story but it’s of great significance to me. It was the time in my life where I truly confirmed that I genuinely no longer care if people stare at me and whisper things about how much of a putz I must be. I had become completely immune to all of that. “Folks, I’m just here to relax, have a beer and eat my burrito. You mind your business, I’ll mind mine, and we’ll all just move along after this and get on with our lives”, is what I should have said. Hopefully, my nod and smirk to all of the bystanders said just that, because that was, and still is, my message when I dine alone on a work trip…even if there’s a fire.

 

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If You’re Short On Interesting Facts About Yourself, Here’s One You Can Use…

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I hike. I’m a hiker. (I’m not really, but how would you know?)

The same as walking but sounds cooler and is usually done in a fall wardrobe and sometimes with a stick. Easy to use as a quick answer when someone asks you what hobbies you have when you don’t really have any (nobody can prove you don’t hike because if you can walk, you’re proficient at hiking). Makes you easily sound like a rugged outdoorsman or a conservationist but requires little to no experience and is the cause for very few follow up questions that you might not be able to handle.

Believability factor as a hiking enthusiast increases exponentially with untrimmed beard, hiking boots, plaid flannel shirt, Yeti coffee mug (often combined with matching Yeti baseball cap) and daily declarations to everyone you see that you’re a hiker and like to hike.

Comsider working this into your conversations as we approach autumn. People will think that you’re way more interesting than you actually are.

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I Don’t Know, I Just Think That Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts Would Make A Handsome Couple

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I feel validated. I have not been proud to admit that somewhere in my top 25 favorite movies list is the romantic comedy Notting Hill (it’s really the only romantic comedy to make the list).

Today, while shopping for Science Diet dog food which is, strangely enough, sold almost exclusively at Tractor Supply Company (a store for ranch hands, rodeo riders and burly men who raise barns and mend fences), I saw the Notting Hill DVD displayed among The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, some John Wayne movies and some Louis L’Amour western movies.

It seems that if it’s popular with the demographic that shops here, I’m not alone in being a man who really liked that movie. Unless, of course, it was displayed with the intention of having movies of interest to the farmer’s wife?

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I’m Not Always A Jerk, But Sometimes I Am.

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On the first of two flights today, the conversation that everyone within four rows was forced to hear was between a twenty-something, go-getter woman who has yet to figure out that putting too much of yourself into corporate America will quickly darken your soul and a young ham-and-egger-type-guy who this girl was trying to impress.

Despite bragging about the fact she’s “going for either an MBA or JD at Harvard or Yale,” she couldn’t close the deal. You could just see in his eyes and hear in his voice that he could not have cared less. It was great! Chalk one up for us Joe Schmo’s who don’t give a rat’s ass about strangers who boast about their unrealistic ambitions and unfulfilled goals.

Every once in a while it’s good to see a pretentious young lady eat a spoonful of humility by striking out with an unimpressed man. In fact, sometimes I derive a perverse pleasure from it. Schadenfreude at its finest.

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Where Are They Now?

IMG_1405I’m going to put on some ripped jeans, take my shirt off and walk into the Abercrombie store at the mall today (if I can bring myself to get through that impenetrable cologne barrier they spray around the entrance – a scent that I like to refer to as “Adult Repellent”).

It would be great if I could also get a camera crew to follow me around so we could pretend like we’re doing a ‘Where Are They Now?’ documentary on former Abercrombie models.

I’m sure that if I do this there will be people following me, but it won’t be a documentary film crew – more like the police and maybe a handful of chubby chasers. Look for me on the news tonight.

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