Monday, September 24, 2012

It's Just to Courteous to Give Courteousy Wave

Vroooom, vrooom, vrooom, Shrump. Rush rush. Cut. Cut. Go.
Vroooom, vrooom, vrooom, Shrump. Rush rush. Cut. Cut. Go.

This is the best I could onomatopoeia-ically describe the sound of me getting cut off. Twice. Normally, cutting someone off is viewed as both a threat to life and adequate driving skills. However, in this case, I'm actually okay with the situation. Why? Because the cutters made certain to shoot me a courtesy wave and ameliorate the situation.

For those who have never touched an automobile before, here is the background on a courtesy wave. In the world of cars, when someone does you a solid, something that saves your life in some way, like letting you merge from a ramp—thus preventing you from smashing into those big yellow barrels that I can only assume contain some sort of fuel and accelerant that would explode like it's in a mid-90s era light gun game. When situations like that occur, the solid-receiver is expected to throw up a wave to courteously let the other driver know they’re giving respect. It also lets them say “I’m an idiot, thanks” without having to verbalize it.
Guy giving courtesy wave
Courtesy wave, driver lives.

Not only are courtesy waves courteous, they've also come to be expected. If you don't do one, bad things are likely to happen. The case of William S. Brooks is proof positive of the power of the courtesy wave. In 1996, he was driving to his home in Olympia, WA, when Brian Michaelson, a 30-year-old roofing contractor cut him off. In Brooks' words, it wasn't a “bad cutoff,” but a cutoff nonetheless. He waited the requisite 7.3 seconds to see if Michaelson did shoot up the courtesy wave.

When no wave came, Brooks proceeded to run Michaelson off and repeatedly shoot him with a crossbow he kept in the back of the cabin of his Ford F-150. After Michaelson expired, Brooks reportedly waved at him before getting back in his car and continuing his drive.

At trial, Brooks took the stand and mentioned the lack of courtesy wave and how this made him feel sad. It took the jury 20 minutes to find him not guilty on all accounts. And that justified jury of course got a strong courtesy wave from Brooks, the purveyor of kindness.

Penguin Courtesy Wave
Thanks, driving penguin!
As Mr. Brooks' case shows, the courtesy wave has much power on the road and in the minds of feeble-minded juries. But it seems to be relegated to only driving or biking sorts of situations. I'd like to see the wave crawl out of the car ghettos and apply it to other parts of life.

“Oops, sorry I Ponzi schemed you (wave),” - Bernie Madoff.
“I'll get you in your dreams (wave),” Freddy Krueger—made doubly scary because the claw hand is doing the wave.
“So long, Mr. William S. Brooks (wave),” - Miranda Michaelson.
“Sorry I needed to go back to the well and make another X-Files movie that really sucked. Cheers,” Chris Carter says very Britishly as he raises his right hand in a conciliatory fashion. Apology accepted Mr. X-Files, just don't do it again.

While the courtesy wave has courtesy in the title, it's really a common expectation. If you don't do it, nobody likes you and you're a horrible person. Please, always courtesy wave, it's the right thing to do.

So feel free to vroom and shrump on the road, just make sure to do it courteously.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Argh, Talk Like a Pirate Day Be Subjugating People, Matey

Pirate Clip Art
This pirate clip art is just part of the problem
Talk Like a Pirate Day used to be one of my favorite holidays. It was right up there with Christmas and Arbor Day on my list of occasions I look forward to. But then Talk Like a Pirate Day 2011 happened.

Last year for this holiday, foolish me wrote this piece on talking and pirating for a particular day. Laughs were had by all as I exposed pirates for what they truly were (drunks, stabbers, meanies) little did I realize I could offend people with my language.

I received the following email from Fancypants Baird Dawkins, esquire, a Zoning, Planning and Land Use lawyer stationed outside of Chicago, IL. While most everyone will celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day on Wednesday, I encourage you to read over Dawkins' words and just try not to feel ashamed.

“Dear Sir,

With anger and disgust I read your diatribe against the pirate people. You reduced us to catchphrases and various stereotypes that were laid to rest years ago.

I realize the reason pirates were so feared is because we once ran a bad P-Argh campaign, but we can move beyond that.

Yes, I am a pirate, all the way down to me timbers, and there's no question that makes me shiver. But I am accepting of this past, and I've used it to motivate me. Raised on the gunwales of the Mary Celeste, I faced challenge after challenge. Sure, I wanted to just plunder my four years of undergraduate and law school at Columbia, but I didn't. Instead I put me nose to the ground and secured those ayes by meself. My pirate past hindered me, but also aided my life.

We pirates are just like anyone else. We like our grog cold and our wenches with torn bodices. Belay those stereotypical pirateisms. We are a proud people who are known for being the scourge of the high seas. Those, those, those somali pirates, they don't even know how to say argh. They, they make me so angry matey!

Ahem. Really, Mr. Nelson, we just want to be taken seriously. We're not just poofy shirts and tri-corner hats. We also do things like rape and pillage. Ermmmm, build charities and teach children how to sail, just like Blackbeard taught us to do.

That was a pirate joke for you there—since Blackbeard's real name was Edward Teach. Argh, that's good.

Jeffy Seinfeld Pirate Shirt
Nobody wants to be a pirate, Jerry Seinfeld

Our subjugation has caused us to commonly be placed on the losing end of the pirates versus ninja debate, those pajamaed ninnies, and... and... I... I... I Argh matey, I just can't take it! There's a reason the song goes “It's a pirate life for me” and not “It's a Zoning, Planning and Land Use Lawyer's life for me.” The second one doesn't even make sense rhythmically! Bilge water I say, bilge water!

Avast me beauty! I be thirsting, fetch me the grog and perfor' sexy!

Pirately yours,

Admiral Dawkins, esquire.”

See, his undercover pirateism seems to have really messed with his mental state. Just think of that the next time you decide to subjugate an entire people by making a pirate joke like “What do Jewish Pirates say? Ahoy vey!” You're insulting two racial groups, matey.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Excuse Me, May I Cut in Line?

Heads. Tails. Budding. Cutting in line. Chickity China, the Chinese Chicken.

Whatever you called it, anyone who ever went to a form of organized school and/or kickball game knows systems like this are necessary to propel to the front of any type of line. With a new year of school now in session for just about everyone, BreakMentalDown has decided to take a look at some of the technological advances that have revolutionized this time-saving concept.

We’re sending our own Kevin Nelson undercover to Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, MD to find out the latest in line cutting trends. And if this “Never Been Kissed” sort of set up results in him ending up with “Alias” star Michael Vartan, all the better.

Here’s Kevin.

When I first showed up at Walt Whitman High School, I didn’t know what to think. I knew kids were going to be cutting in line, I mean that’s the most efficient way to score countless Cups of Dirt or Tuna Surprise, but how they accomplished it surprised me.

Back in my elementary school days, a couple of the very progressive line cutters came up with the concept of “heads for heads.” This isn’t nearly as dirty as it sounds, basically the administration outlawed giving either heads or tails, but people could circumvent this system by giving “heads for heads.” The budder would have a compatriot in line who would offer them heads if the budder then gave heads back. It basically worked out as giving tails, but the two wrongs make a right principle allowed it to be all good and legal.

Artist's conception of Kevin standing in line, since of course,
Kevin did not actually sneak into any high school.
Apparently two wrongs don’t make a right, as this system of line cutting prompted many glares when I tried attempting it. At least I assume that’s what the glares were from, not from the fact that a 28-year-old hard horned in on prime high school mating season.

And speaking of high school mating season, this is actually how the system of “heads for heads” works nowadays, except they dropped one of the s’s in that statement, and it is as dirty as you’d think it is.

Another thing we never had when I was in grade school, or even high school for that matter was smart phones. Let me tell you, this is a total game changer for the entire industry. No longer must children focus on ways to get to the front of the line one person at a time, they can take out entire swathes of line with a simple call to the fire department or sexting a pic of Mrs. Anderson, the mousy librarian who apparently has a wild side. The rotary phones of my youth stared in wonder at this technological advance.

As I went deeper and deeper into the seamy underbelly of line cutting, I found out even as everything is changing, the more they stay the same. Wanting to get to the front of the line, I pulled out one of my classic statements from my HS playbook.

“Oh my god, they put raisins in our Jell-o cups!” I shouted. Wave after wave of children stormed out of line when I let out this vile tidbit.

As I said, as things change, they stay the same. And I know I can use this in my adult-world life. While I have absolutely no interest in getting the iPhone 5 when it comes out on September 21, I do look forward to using my line cutting skills and being the first person to not buy one in line at an AT&T store, because really, who would want a cell phone with raisins in it?

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Man Who Worked Hard to Make Labor Day Had Three Flavors

As everyone is sitting down to enjoy a nice cold Labor Day Dom Perignon, I have just one thing to say to you all. Shame on you. You probably think this is the day when everyone celebrates everything that labor has ever accomplished. And that is just not so, Labor Day is nothing without Flavor Day.

As a Labor Day baby (yes, my mom was in labor on Labor Day) I was born with this knowledge imbued into my psyche. To truly celebrate Labor Day, we must take a look back into the bloody history of this momentous holiday.

Peter J. McGuire Inventor of Labor Day
A rare file photo of Peter J. McGuire.
Do note the 2 flavored Neapolitan
mustache he's sporting.
Labor Day started in turn of the 19th century France. But it didn't actually start out as “Labor Day.” Instead, Baron von Peter J. McGuire, a French noble started out the day as “Flavor Day,” a celebration of the delicious ice cream that McGuire so thoroughly enjoyed. To be precise, Peter J. McGuire loved the Neapolitan style of ice cream, as he felt it perfectly blended chocolate and vanilla ice creams in a taste described as “truly divine.”

What's that you say, there are three flavors in Neapolitan ice cream? Well, keep reading to find out more of this sordid tale.

Peter J. McGuire went around forcing everyone to sample this “unique” flavor and, of course, used his considerable power and wealth to strongarm various government and dictatorial regimes to highlight his made up holiday. Many people compared him to a modern day Augustus with his tyrannical overthrow of social mores.

“You'll never believe this, you think you're gonna hit chocolate, but then it's vanilla, and that vanilla is actually chocolate, so it's full circle, but it's not full circle, but it is full circled in a less circled but total vanilla and chocolate circle,” was one of McGuire's catchphrases. Yes, a catchphrase, meaning before the heat of battle with whatever legislature, he'd repeat this saying. Constantly. Like four times for every normal sentence.

Understandably, the people grew tired of this. Sure, they gave in to his demands and created the renowned “Flavor Day” to be celebrated worldwide, but they also murdered him and compacted his flesh and bones down, placing it into the Neapolitan ice cream he loved so much. While this might sound kind of gross, it's reassuring to know his flesh tasted of strawberries, and the decent ice cream suddenly had a third flavor and the ability to be recognized as the Neapolitan we know it as today.

Neapolitan Ice Cream
Neapolitan ice cream as we know it today. Do note
the presence of Peter J. McGurie's cartilage.
However, all of that murdering and food scientisting worked up a great hunger in those noble proletariats, and they decided they needed a day to celebrate their hard work and accomplishments. Since everyone had already penciled in the first Monday of September to celebrate Flavor Day, they simply dropped the first F, got Lavor day and then changed it out of the evil French dialect to result in the Labor Day you're currently celebrating by eating watermelon.

So have a happy Labor Day, but do realize it is a holiday built on the blood, sweat and tears of Peter J. McGuire. And I mean that in the most literal sense. Please do enjoy the delicious Neapolitan ice cream. It DOES have chocolate and vanilla AND strawberry flavors and it is delicious.

Although, maybe this Flavor Day baby just really wants some Neapolitan ice cream.

Homer Simpson with Neapolitan Ice Cream
It's okay Homer, there's still plenty of organic matter.