I am pretty good at making new years’ resolutions. After all, I am one of those neurotic types who feels compelled to analyze every detail of his life, including how effectively I brushed my teeth and if I have taken too many liberties in my carbon footprint. Thus around December 30, I begin carefully constructing a systematic plan of self-improvement, a fail safe way of avoiding frivolous actions such as buying snowmobiles and trying to complete the NY Times Crossword Puzzle without Googling every other question.
This year’s resolutions includes such Herculean tasks as cleaning my car, paying off my credit card debt and organizing my papers. This is not likely to happen but at least when it comes to resolutions, intention is a good 7/10 of the law.
But this blog is not about me. Although being less judgmental is one of my resolutions, this is about you, well maybe not you my handful of readers, but “you” as in the general hodgepodge of people I see around me, people who don’t seem to have taken the time to reshape the less newsworthy aspects of the world exactly as I would like it.
Just as there should be a little Holden Caulfield in every adolescent, so too should there be a little Larry David in every adult. In some cases such as mine, perhaps a lot. I realize that the older I get, the more tolerant of others’ shortcomings I should be just as I hope they are of mine. But living in Miami brings an entirely different magnitude of seeing human “quirkiness” in action, a firestorm of just downright hostile cultural and behavioral norms which threaten to our ever growing Shangri-La into the dystopian world depicted in Michael Douglass classic societal rant “Falling Down”.
So without further ado, here is what I really think needs to go in 2019. As in immediately.
(1) Give me normal-sized food, at least one that does not look like it was meant for Avatars
I don’t know which person at the FDA or spawn of Demeter decided that our produce wasn’t large enough but Google search the size of strawberries, grapes or oranges from lets say 2010 and believe me, they were already large enough. I haven’t seen someone who is about to eat a strawberry the size of an orange delight in its new dimensions. Nor a grape the size of a bull’s testicles.
There is serious food insecurity globally but not necessarily for the people who shop at Whole Foods and Fresh Market. Lets fatten up some fruits and veggies for them or just farm produce them entirely. But no need “to go big or go home” back here in Miami. There is enough artificial growth on the locals’ bodies to fill the Indian Ocean with silicone. I don’t want to have to use two hands to hold an apple, and I insist on getting at least 12 strawberries per package.
Final opinion on genetically modified fruits – less is more.
Speaking of less is more…
(2) I need to be tipped to pay for all of my tips
Please stop strategically placing that “Please Sign this page which includes at least 87 icons for different tip amounts” in front of my face unless your service merits a tip. I am a chronic over-tipper with a guilty conscience who perhaps rightly feels his blessing of good financial fortune should be shared with everyone including the mailman, but please give my mind a break and just charge me for the service rendered and leave it at that.
I am the type of person who makes on-the-spot calculations about how the impact of a potential tip might impact your self-esteem, your ability to pay for higher education, bear children and eat organic food at least once a week.
If you are a food server, mend hearts (literally), fly airplanes or have the chance to gash open my scalp with cutting shears, I am happy to tip you. But if you just charged me $17 for two coffees and a stale pumpkin muffin, please don’t expect what’s left of my pocket change….
Speaking of two cents…
(3) Keep your politics off FB
At least if you are die hard Republican, although I would say the same for my extremely liberal friends whose postings may entice those same Republicans to post ridiculous meme after meme about how El Salvadorians are trying to cross the border so they can “steal our jobs, our money, our women and eventually Texas”.
Granted I really shouldn’t be on FB in the first place as I crossed that age threshold a few moons ago, but in those few guilty pleasure moments I am on it, please don’t make me correct your fallacious perspective. I will and then spend the next hour telling all my friends how I am just so much better informed than everyone else, one because I subscribe to hard copies of newspapers and two, teach AP Government, and therefore must be right.
speaking of right…
(4) Please turn right, I mean left, I mean go straight… Recalculating
Once upon a time we got our bearings through basic human observation. After that accomplishment, we could pretty much remember the lay of the local land and learn how to navigate new places within a day or two. If all else failed, we consulted a map or in the ultimate surrendering of our foolish sense of manhood, asked a local passer-by for directions.
Concurrently we memorized phone numbers, did extensive Math problems in our heads and could remember the important details of our appointments even if sometimes we showed up in the wrong city. Then along came digital devices about which I have ranted enough to write a solid doctoral dissertation. But in all of my commentary, I omitted much mention of perhaps the biggest threat of all. Until now.
Not a day goes by when I don’t use the Apple Maps app. And not a day goes by when I wish I didn’t have to. The GPS may be the quintessential personification of the U-2 song “With or Without You”. Kudos to the GPS “Siri” for being able to provide directions to millions of wayward souls simultaneously. And she is polite about it. I can hardly teach a class and take attendance at the same time.
But for God’s sake and that my family who is in the car with me, please provide the specifics of the route in a timely fashion, especially when on a city highway such as the Mass Turnpike which resembles an extended DNA strand. Thinking about the amount of near crashes I have experienced because “you” have sent me mixed signals literally causes heart palpitations.
The solution escapes me but I’m thinking somewhere along the lines of going GPS free or if this is pie in the sky, providing a live directions guru who talks to us face to face through the route. Particularly when I’m tired, my Apple maps robot becomes the equivalent of an air traffic controller giving the pilots conflicting messages or no signal at all. Or if the GPS is going to call the shots, then at least suggest the simplest and most scenic route once in awhile.
speaking of scenery..
(5) This is not Lego Land. Let’s stop building
Lets keep some of our natural scenery, even if some of us, myself included, don’t fully appreciate nature. Not every open plot of land has to be developed. Nor does every new building have to reach the troposphere even if that does maximize space. For one, putting a little harness on our real estate development inclinations, especially in the Brickell Ave and downtown areas nationwide would create less population congestion.
Secondly, parking would not be as scarce and third, I wouldn’t feel so bad about being the type of person who is adventurous, but genuinely fears change.
Speaking of change…
(6) Parking used to just cost me my spare change but now..
Because I am a reasonable guy I just want things to be reasonable. I realize that some aspects of life such as the cost of medical care, sporting tickets and private education will never be reasonable. But there are still some recreational or “secondary market” activities which should be. One of them is parking.
I don’t need a car wash, a valet to open the door for me nor any other form of pampering when I decide to rest my car for an hour or two while I overspend at some trendy local establishment. After all, I have already paid big time money in property taxes and tolls just to right to drive on your roads. But I’m not territorial.
If you want to leave your car in my driveway or on my street, all I want is a thank you. But to park in public spaces, I’m willing to pay you enough to but a nice 12 inch sub at Subway or to buy a matinee movie ticket. Please just refrain from charging me an hour worth of pay to shove my car in a tiny lot that has amassed 170 vehicles in a space big enough to have two simultaneous games of racquetball. In case you think I am directing this complaint at a specific vendor, you are exactly right Adrienne Arsht Center. Frankly regular attendees should be able to park for free.
Speaking of free……,
(7) Could you please turn off the music
What is free and I almost wish it wasn’t are the airwaves in private establishments such as pretty much anywhere one goes to spend money. Even cabs and elevators now blare ambient noise. I have written about this before but the problem seems to be anything from being resolved. It’s getting worse. Absolutely ear splitting, soul deforming, spirit killing music is being piped from every structural orifice including the ground, shower head and ground floor sinks. Those automatic air dryers (more on that in a bit) also play music in some venues.
My travels yesterday are a great way to illustrate the phenomenon. I awoke early to hack away with my writing and sure enough Richard Marx, then Gloria Estefan then a medley of perhaps the most gag-able love songs in the history of sap blared through the hotel lobby sound system. Now I am not sure who was the consultant or in-house strategist who decided the best way to greet customers when they enter a hotel is to pipe extraordinarily loud music, but that has now become a pretty much universal practice. From there it was to the ski slopes and in the rental area that charged $35 for boots which smelled like a postgame football locker room and skis with edges as dull as twenty year old butter life, it was your typical 104.5 classic rock station assaulting me with one overplayed 1980’s hit after another, including Taylor Dane and I think Ratt. Right now, it’s Whitney Houston.
Now in my teens this might have been appreciated, but please not as I approach middle life and not as I am trying to mentally resolve the credit card maxing amount I just spent.
But the worst was at CVS where I was already frustrated because I can never figure out where they keep basic things such as cold medicine. The music there was not only loud, but the re-shelving clerks and I think the cashiers were singing along with it. As a result, I couldn’t get either of their attention. Looking for some sympathy, I asked the only contemplative looking employee how she dealt with all the noise. She kindly replied that “she couldn’t” and that it drove her kind of crazy.
When I asked her what if there was anything customers could do about the ambient noise and she coyly replied, “Shop somewhere else”.
Speaking of somewhere else…
(8) Miami is definitely “somewhere else”
The whole Latino/a kissing thing is another unnerving issue, worthy of a PhD thesis topic in Sociology. In Human Geography, we call this type of behavior the result of contagious diffusion. But even more strange to me and because of my exponentially growing peevishness feels even more infectious, are those commonly used Latino “terms of endearment” or pet terms which are so gratuitously used in non-endearing contexts.
Let’s set the scene. I walk into an office building ground floor Colombian bakery. A bunch of customers are giving each other the customary pecks on the cheek even though are barely acquaintances. I just want a coffee and empanada and am ready to order>
“Hola mi vida”, the cashier says. At first I tune her out but then start to think about it. How can I be her “vida”. I’m just a total stranger who just came into her place of employment for five minutes. And if I am “your life, how did I reach such a privileged status in just a matter of seconds?
$3.50 later I get a “Gracias mi amor”. Now I am not only her life, but her love too.
As an English teacher, I am big and perhaps hung up on semantics. Words should matter. For their cashier, I hear another fifty people or so, including many of the employees at my school, doing the same thing. Perhaps this is just another scene in my ongoing Spanglish odyssey, but I just feel the cultural disconnect here a bit more strongly.
I will try to give it a context by providing an English speaking example. I sold sneakers and tennis equipment for several years. Imagine a customer or two sit on the bench to try on some shoes. “Hello my life”, I say to them.
“Excuse me”, the female customer responds. “Yes my love, how can I help you? Are you looking for running or just everyday comfortable shoes?”
At this point, the patron would either laugh at me, complain to another salesperson or just walk out. But if she stayed, I can’t imagine finishing the transaction with “Thanks my life or thanks mi “cielo” – my sky.
I get the whole “passionate”, “we just want to show affection”, thing but this needs to be tempered. I’m passionate too but try to save it for the right time and place. Why not just sound like a normal person in a normal situation?
A simple “hello, thanks and goodbye” with a smile would work wonders for me.
Speaking of wonders…
(9) Not Miami’s roads
Miami generates a lot of money from consumer spending. Sales tax is relatively high, hotel taxes are even higher. The service charge for purchasing tickets online almost as much as the ticket sometimes (exactly whose services am I paying for if the website has already been created and the pay portal?
But even more outrageous are the costs of parking tickets and express lane usage respectively. How is it that parking on the street costs between $1-$4 an hour yet if I get to my car 15 minutes after my paid parking expires, I get charged $40? This windfall of unjust revenue fails to account the cost of regular tolls. Miami is a commuter city with the public transportation system of a fourth world country so we are pretty much forced to travel everywhere by car, including to the neighbor’s house.
In other words, the municipal governments are taking in a shitload of money from sin taxes and basic services.
So exactly why can’t we get any properly paved roads?
I live in the Grove where my annual property taxes are enough to pay for a year’s tuition at Ransom. For me, there are hundreds of others paying the piper in spades.
So I must repeat the question – Why can’t I get some local roads that are comfortable to drive, bike, rollerblade, walk or even look at it? Just stop and glance at South Bayshore Drive and you will realize it is not even fit for ants.
I could go to one of the most industrially polluted cities in the upper Midwest and I would bet my house their roads are more comfortable than ours. Every year I say the same thing: “This will be there year they finally give the roads a new coat of asphault. This is the year that the Grove joins the 21st century?”
Like Don Quixote, I persist in this folly.
Speaking of folly
(10) Would bikers kindly share the roads
When I was about five and living in Chicago, a swarm of early spring locusts began colonizing the sidewalks. No I was not hallucinating about “The Prince of Egypt” because it hadn’t come out yet. These were not Palmetto Bugs either because those don’t go to the midwest. They were locusts.
There was hardly an inch of bare sidewalk and I remember frantically walking home from school to find some sanctuary.
I think of these locusts every time I see a swarm of local “athletes” cycling on my neighborhood streets, especially on weekend mornings As I would like to think of myself as at least a partial throwback, I applaud their dedication and willingness to enjoy an “analog” hobby. But please know your limits and keep to your part of the road.
These cyclists annoy me on all levels. First I see them biking at almost all hours of the day on weekends and then just lounging at Starbucks as soon as their ride has ended. I have for long conjectured as to what they do for a living and my current conclusion is “something very smart” because they don’t seem to have to work at all.
But my bigger peeve is how much of the road you feel is necessary. Rather than trying to look like Team USPS at the end of Lance Armstrong’s doping induced 7 Tour De France victories, please bike in single file. It’s actually safer for you and a whole lot easier than having to force the likes of me to drive against traffic to pass you.
Besides, if it isn’t obvious to you already, drivers are in a hell of a lot bigger rush than you are…
So there you have it. A Larry David minion shares his take on what all of you need to do, especially local city planner, to make my 2019 better. I really don’t think I am asking too much especially since I obviously know what is best for both you and me. In truth, I would be happy if only half of these things came true. I am not as picky as one might think, nor that much of a fuzzy eyed dreamer any more.
I guess I just liked thinks the way they used to be. Except for the old music. You can keep that to yourself.