Thursday, September 23, 2010

Attention humans

Capable.  Versatile.  Desirable.  No, not the girl.  The phone.  At least that's what Verizon says about its new line of "droid" phones.  They "turn your fingers into pulsating pistons".  And according to another Verizon ad, they "are your life".

I haven't seen this level of an attempt at mind control since the Outer Limits guy came on the television and said "we control the horizontal...we control the vertical."  But there it is, and the worst part of this whole thing is that it works.

Some of you may not know this but I landed a really good job lately.  A totally no nonsense job that requires me to use my brain (or what's left of it) and not some piece of electronic flotsam.  And this job is in "dahntahn Pikksburgh" as we'd say here on the West Coast of Pennsylvania.  And so, I get to ride the bus from my suburban palace.  Again.

Some of you may remember the "Bob Rides the Bus" blog entry when I was in full nostalgia mode and writing about all things Smock.  Things have changed since then.  But please allow me to tell you the good news first.  Riding the bus these days is quiet.  (I may actually give up dreaming about a chauffeur driven limousine altogether.)  Aside from the roar of the Cummins diesel engine, you hear nothing.  That's because everyone either has those white wires leading into both their ears from some secret pocket that holds the I-whatever or they're pumping their fingers faster than a stenographer on steroids.  And judging from the incessant head bobbing and finger tweaking, they're listening to something other than my holy Motown.  They're not hearing it through the grapevine.

And, it gets worse.  Now, the same box that you can talk, text, pix, flix, and poke from can also give you those tunes that you cannot live without.  And now, you can shut out the neighbor on the bus with both your ears and eyes since you are both listening and texting at the same time.  Nothing says "get lost" nicer than one of these.

So whatever happened to the fine art of conversation?  I put a sign on my modest cubicle today that read "Frequent Flyer" which referred to this sad woman who was in the hospital every month for something or another.  When the junior lawyer asked what it meant, I told him.  He asked more questions and I answered.  We TALKED without the use of any sort of device that emitted radio frequency pulses.  At the end of the conversation, he said "Nice talking to you."  And it was nice talking with him too.

For you see, conversation takes speaking as well as listening to an old level.  Allowing the other person to say what they're going to say is, well, new again.  Watch the interviews involving multiple guests on Headline News and you'll see how often everyone is stepping on everyone else's statements because what THEY have to say is much more important.  Why?  Because it's all about ME.  Me myself and I.  No one else has anything good to say.  I say to those people, please put the ear buds or whatever the hell they're called back into your ears.  We can live without you.

I do not want my fingers turning into pistons.  Sure, I have a cell phone but you're going to be pretty lonely if you try to text me because I had the Lord God Verizon turn off that feature.  So you can CALL me.  What a concept.  And we can TALK.  WOW.

And the next time I hear the words "capable", "versatile" and "desirable", they better be talking about a woman who is 27 years old and crazy about me.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Final Finger

So how many of you have even been signaled by a passer by or driver of another car indicating with their finger that Pittsburgh is "No. 1"??  Doesn't have to be the index finger either.  But for some reason, the display of any digit nowadays seems to have a lot less impact that it did 20 years ago.  A lot.  Even octogenarians send people the single digit while trying to remember what it stands for.

We are a town of competitors.  In this town, we have glassed-in showcases full of Super Bowl trophies and even a recent Stanley Cup.  We even have a 12 foot high Mazerowski.  So if you're going to send another driver a sign of dissatisfaction, then in Pittsburgh, you better get in the final finger.  We cannot stand idly by and watch another person get in the last word when it comes to hand gestures.

Today, a friend invited me to a birthday dinner.  I turned over another year yesterday.  Being a mercenary diner, I never refuse a free opportunity to strap on the feedbag.  I was crossing the Fort Duquesne bridge to head into downtown when I noticed that the seventeen PennDot geniuses in their hard hats and little yellow polyester Day-Glo vests had turned four lanes into one.  I swear, I had nothing to do with it.  I was one lane too far to the left and so I signaled right, which infuriated the two guys in the next lane who were driving a Ford F-150 with a cargo bed full of lumber.

The first thing that came to my mind was that someone up in Monroeville had a lumber emergency and needed this delivered right away, for as we know, lumber is the antidote for bowel obstruction or hemorrhagic stroke.  So when I tried to pull in front of them, they hit the gas closing the space that I had my eye on while all the while, delivering the message "___ you" on the tops of their lungs.  So, I took in a deep breath and waited for them to pass, hoping that the car behind them didn't also have someone in West Pittsburgh who needed an Iron City stat or didn't have their daily quota of processed meats.  But this is where I was reminded that God has a sense of humor.  The car in front of the Ford truck leaped forward leaving a gap big enough to park a 1947 Buick.  The lumber emergency guys stood there as if being held back by a tractor beam (made by John Deere).  I carefully pulled forward  and there I was, right where I needed to be.

The two lumber emergency guys began shouting on the tops of their lungs, since they didn't have time to install the necessary sirens and lights.  The familiar "____ you" was heard by all, since the Fort Duquesne bridge acted like a sonic wave guide which got the attention of the guys from Planet PennDot.  At that moment, I had a lapse of common sense and shook my head in the negative, much like your mother would do when you spilled that full glass of tomato juice on grandpap's white shirt.

This caused the lumber ambulance to veer from their lane heading to the Parkway East into mine, which was heading for the Grant Street exit.  They zoomed up behind me like an eagle ready to sink his talons into a chihuahua.  And as I turned right onto the Smithfield Street bridge, my eye caught the guy in the passenger seat of the woodmobile literally extending half of his entire body out of the truck's window flailing both arms, fingers extended.  It reminded me to stop at the market on the way home and get more pork butt.

Competition is taught to us Western Pennsylvanian's at an early age.  Talent shows on Friday in grade school or who could run the fastest playing Cut-The-Pie in the snow.  And now it's come to this;  the final finger.

I wonder what those guys will win after they tell the story to their school chums tomorrow while riding to 3rd grade on the short bus?  Maybe a deer meat pinata?  Or a free mini-pack of Red Man?  Or one of those tee shirts that has an arrow pointing straight up saying "I'm with stupid?"

Hey, does that mean that I get the final finger?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Crossing the street

Yesterday on the eve of my birthday, my cell phone decided to break.  I could speak but I could not hear anything coming from the tiny slit in the top of the phone.

Cell phones are necessary evils.  A few weeks ago, I got a letter from Verizon.  It said "Your cell phone is your life."  Really?  I thought my life was music, friends, sunshine, and all of those things that make life worth living.  The cell phone does not connect to my autonomic nervous system so if it goes dead, I don't.  So how could it be my LIFE?

A few years ago, I worked at writing a surgical technology course for a community college in Manassas, Virginia.  And several times I was asked to proctor tests so that the usual instructor could goof off.  When I asked that ALL cell phones were to be placed on my desk during testing, several people insisted that this could NEVER happen.  "I have my baby at home."  "My mother is sick and she needs to call."  Well, if you have a baby at home, I would assume that SOMEONE is watching either him or her.  (Never NEVER call a baby an "it"!!)  And if your mother is sick, she will either get better, get worse, or die.  Either way, you can do without the phone for 20 minutes.  Really, you can.  The one thing that these students realized that day is that breaking physical contact with the cell phone does not result in having both of your lungs collapse or cause blood to pour from your eyes.  You'll survive.

Verizon found that to fix the hearing thingy, they needed to give me a new phone.  And by the way, if you ever think that Verizon could save money by having you drop the phone off and return when it's fixed, then you have absolutely no idea how much money Verizon makes.  They can replace your cell phone daily for the next thousand years and their bottom line won't flinch.  And besides, your lungs would collapse.

On the way home from Verizonland, I turned at an intersection where there were no stop signs.  As I rounded the corner, two young men who appeared to be their early 20's were crossing the street.  This literally took about 30 seconds, which in the scheme of things, was not significant.  But I have seen one year old babies crawl faster than these guys could walk.  And after that period of time, I had to steer around them.  I leaned out of the car and said "Gentlemen, that is a good way to die!!"  The taller of the two geniuses yelled "Well next time, drive slower."  I guess he didn't notice that I was STOPPED, so I told him so.  He then said "So don't drive."  And that was the first time in my life that I thought about hiring a chauffeur like Miss Daisy had.  Let the chauffeur worry about all of the goofballs of the world.  Curbside pickup at the ball park or supermarket.  "Here Bitterman, put the groceries in the trunk and take me home through the park;  you know how I love the park."  Heaven.

Society today (at least in Pittsburgh) clings too tightly to material things, especially when that material thing can put you in touch with friends in an instant.  But would we be as clingy to those same friends and family if we had our cell phones taken away from us?  Would we talk to our best friend every 5 minutes if it costs a quarter to call them?  And TALK to them, not SPELL?   Most people would text to their friends in their sleep if they could.  Oh Nicole, OMG, like it's me and like I love using the word "like" and like, it's like kewl.

So please PLEASE be careful crossing the street and can you please pick up the pace a bit even if you are on the phone?  After all, you may cost me 30 seconds and then I'd have to deal with paying my chauffeur overtime.

Here we go....

Webster defines the word "sermon" as either a religious discourse or a speech on conduct or duty. This blog will be defined by the latter definition with the former subject.

There are 91 neighborhoods that make up what people know as Pittsburgh. And many of these are still as ethnic as can be; something that this city takes very seriously.

As I travel through these neighborhoods, I am thankful that I have gotten to the point where senility hasn't grabbed hold of my senses so I can still remember what happened four hours ago. It is these happenings and how I feel about them is what I would like to share with you. But be advised that the "comments" section of this blog will be moderated and if I don't like what you have to say, your critical barbs will not see the light of day.

Some of you may know that I was born in Fayette County, a place where the first day of deer season is looked upon with the same reverence as Easter. But when I became "of age" where I could afford my own place and drink legally, I moved to a place where warmth and brotherhood would abound..Newark, Delaware. But several years ago, I felt the call of home and moved back. Not to Fayette County but to Allegheny County. Where the action is. Which is why I sometimes carry a gun.

But I do thank you for reading. And please know that I love you all. Well, after the Steelers, of course. Ehhhh, well then there's pierogies and then you. Maybe Irish music, then pierogies...?? Anyway, you get the picture. Stay tuned.