Friday, February 13, 2009

Stuff That Bugs Me

By John Gilstrap

I’m a reasonable man. I understand that people have jobs to do, and I respect anyone who does honest work for an honest wage. I think being a novelist makes me fairly empathetic, almost by definition, and I really do try to see issues from both sides. That said . . .

Why do the baristas in Starbucks insist on asking me if I want to leave room for cream? Having paid for a whole cup of coffee, why wouldn’t I want a whole cup of coffee? As it is, a “full” cup is typically one-eighth empty. I confess that I do, indeed, put cream in my coffee (along with two Splendas for the grande size), but I reserve the right to decide how much of my justly-purchased morning dose gets poured into the trash can to make room. Some would argue that baristas make their offer as a customer service, but in my hard-earned cynicism I know that the real mission is to collect the revenue for eight or nine servings while incurring the cost of only seven or eight.

While the topic is coffee, what is it about the customer base of Dunkin’ Donuts that makes them vapor-lock when they get to the counter? “I’ll have a dozen donuts,” they’ll say. “I’ll take two glazed, and one chocolate frosted . . . No, three glazed and two chocolate frosted, a blueberry cake . . . No, really, I only want two glazed . . .” Good God almighty, it’s a freaking donut shop! What the hell have you been thinking these last five minutes as we stood in line behind the previous indecisive customer? All I want is a damn cup of coffee.

United Airlines flight attendants, listen up. Since your bosses have decided to charge 20 bucks to check bags, people are going to bring their luggage on board and try to stuff it into the overhead bins. Get over it. Your company made the call to fill every square millimeter with additional no-legroom seats; it’s not our fault. Yelling at people for taking too long in the aisle doesn’t help anything. As for your on-time departure, where the hell was all that concern when the previous late flight made me miss my connection?

Attention drive-thru fast food tellers: Quit asking me if I want your special of the day. If I want your special of the day, I’ll ask for it. However, if you must continue to ask, try pronouncing all the words. That little speaker out there sucks.

Attention fast food restaurant managers with drive-thru windows: Political correctness aside, quit putting non-English speakers on window duty. Seriously. I said cheeseburger, fries and Diet Coke. I shouldn’t have to repeat that three times.

Tourists of the world, the fact that you think might be lost is no excuse to stop dead in your tracks at the top or the bottom of a Metrorail escalator at rush hour. Come to think of it, when you’re a tourist in Washington, I’d consider it a personal favor if you would just stay off the public transit system at rush hour. It’s astonishing how badly you screw it up.

On the highway, if you’re going to pass me, pass me. If you’re going to follow me, follow me. What are you thinking when you pull up next to me and go the same speed?

I save my final appeal for the medical community: Hey Doc, as long as you’re going to make me wait in that ridiculous gown for the 45 minutes that you’d have charged me for if I was late, is it too much to ask for a little heat?

Thanks for indulging me, folks. I actually feel a little better.


  1. “Attention drive-thru fast food tellers:”

    I refuse to use the drive-thru. If you want to know why, refer to Joe Pesci’s assessment of them in LETHAL WEAPON 2.

  2. Two of my own:

    People (almost always women, sorry) at the supermarket (usually the express lane) who star blank-eyed at the cashier when she asks for money, like it's a surprise. They then never fail to have to dig around for their wallet (uaually in their purses, sorry ladies) and then, to add insult to injury, feel obligated to find the exact change. meanwhile, all I came in for was ice cream, and it's already soft.

    Number Two: Please step out of the mouth of the jetway for your tearful reunions. 150 are backed up behind you, and 80 of them have to pee RIGHT NOW.

  3. Sounds like Gilstrap's having a rough morning. This may be a good day to write the violent parts of your next story.


  4. While those things would iritate the snot outa me too (I lived in the DC Metro area from 88-93) I take pleasure in the fact that, in Anchorage Alaska we have no metrorail and seldom have traffic snarls. Well, with one exception being the Glenn Highway a 4-lane stretch along which about about 40,000 commuters travel 40 miles from the Matanuska Valley to work in Anchorage.

    The other thing that helps folks stay fairly polite around here is the fact that two thirds of the people on the roads here are armed, and everyone knows it. So people tend to be fairly nice to each other.

    The thing that gets me though is when new folks from the lower 48 come up and bring with them their mean customer service attitudes. I don't mind having a dull eyed dreadlocked stoner girl make my coffee at Khaladi Brothers (similar to Starbucks) as long as she's nice...which usually they are. But can't take it when the person behind the counter stares at me like they're visualising flaying me alive.

    Oh...and there is the one thing that does rile me. When people squeeze between cars in traffic at high speeds, trying to get ahead of everyone and nearly causing accidents in the process but only end up getting one car length ahead of you...through every light...all the way across town.

    It's enough for me to wish a moose collision on them.

  5. Lol, John!
    I've got one: you're returned to your car in a parking garage/on a city street. There is clearly another car waiting for this parking spot. What on earth are you doing that requires a full five minutes before you even start your engine, and another five before you pull out? Is the spot really that important to you? Are you engaging in a heartfelt goodbye?

  6. If you live, visit, drive through, or even IMAGINE the Raleigh-area of North Carolina, or pretty much anywhere else along the I-40 corridor, I'd like to ask you to do one thing.

    Learn to merge.

    It's not too fucking difficult.

    People do it in major cities and tiny towns every day. Why can't you?

    1) WHILE you are on the on-ramp, match speeds with the other vehicles already on the highway.
    2) AS you near the road, adjust faster or slower to fit into the spot available, wherever it may be in relation to you.

    Thank you.


  7. And what about those who get in the 10 item or less express lane with a full cart of stuff? Seriously, learn to count!

  8. Well weren't WE the crabbyappleton on Friday, John (grin)? I caused many smiles in Los Angeles when they initiated a two-carry-on rule on whatever airline I was on. I went into incredible contortions to rearrange multiple carry-ons into "two." (I swear, I think I might have had five). I was huffing and puffing, but by God, by the time I boarded, I had the designated "two" and got on!

  9. And hey, Dana, here's a counterobservation (almost always applies to men, sorry) regarding socks (usually occurs at the end of the day).

    "No, the bedroom floor is NOT the hamper!"