Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Chill Out - Lay Back - Abide - Be Excellent to Each Other

Written 1/17/13

A couple of days ago I was at Subway and ordered a sandwich where the meat had to be microwaved.  I forgot to tell the sandwich artist that I wanted bacon on it, too – which also had to be put in the microwave.  She did a very, very poor job of masking the huge eye roll she gave for me inconveniencing her by having to turn around once again and open the microwave to put my bacon in.

This morning I got up and saw that someone had commented on a blog I had written for a music site about my favorite albums of last year.  His comment: ”I really could not find anything on this list that I liked or a lot I never heard of, He's a DJ, so he has a different view, good for him.”  Working through grammar that doesn’t quite make sense to me, the best I can figure is he’s saying that he doesn’t like anything on my list, he’d already heard of it all, but I’m a DJ and have a different view, so good for me.

As I headed to work today I swung into the gas station to fill a tire that needed air.  After I got back in my car, I noticed that there was a girl, probably mid-teens, in the passenger seat of the truck next to me.  Even though there were two panes of glass between us, we were really close (the lot was pretty packed) and our eyes met.  I nodded and gave a casual friendly wave.  She pursed her lips and glared at me with contempt that was palpable.

In the first case, I really wanted to tell the sandwich artist that I was truly sorry I had forgotten to tell her I wanted bacon.  I didn’t mean to inconvenience her and I certainly didn’t withhold the information on purpose.  I also wanted to tell her that I’m sorry that something so minor could do such damage to her day – it was obvious that it had.  I wanted to tell her that I’m sorry that at her advanced age (mid to late 60s, I guess) that she was still working, and was doing it on her feet all day at Subway.  I wanted to tell her that I’m sorry that so many folks treat customer service workers like shit.  I wanted to tell her that my wife is working as a pharmacy tech while my daughter is growing up, to help our family make extra money, and that people routinely treat her and her coworkers like something that they scraped off the bottom of their shoe, so I know what that can be like.  I also wanted to tell her that I was in that same Subway about two weeks ago and the lady in front of me threw a holy fit when she thought they had messed up her order (I can guarantee it was SHE who messed up her order), and that after she laid into them and made her blustery exit, I made a point to tell each of the workers – including the one I’d recently wronged by forgetting the bacon – that they were doing a great job, that I admired how much they accomplish when they’re so busy, and that they shouldn’t worry about that lady who obviously had her brain on backwards.  Not that doing that made me a good person – but I wanted to ask the sandwich artist for a pass.  You know…I tried to encourage you two weeks ago…maybe you can forgive me for forgetting to ask for bacon until you’d already started the microwave.

I still don’t know how to take case number two.  I enjoy writing, but I realize that the stuff I write about and the way I do it is pretty off the beaten path, so it’ll never be much more than a hobby.  Fortunately, I’ve been able to build a little audience with my own blog and have been able to share what I write on some music sites with their own audiences.  The creative process of writing is fun and I find the sharing that comes from blogging to be therapeutic.  When negative comments are left on what I write, it hurts.  It hasn’t happened very often, and I try to keep it in perspective when it does.  I still don’t know that the guy meant what he said as a negative comment, but I’m at a loss as to why, when something doesn’t resound with you, you take time out of your day to let the writer know it.  If it’s not your cup of tea, move on.  If you liked it, say so – encourage them.  And the line at the end of his post makes me feel like he thinks I was being pretentious; “he’s a DJ, he has a different view, good for him”.  I worry a lot about that; people thinking that I’m being pretentious by writing about and sharing what I do.  But the thing is, I write about what I write about, and I share the things I do, because I’m genuinely excited about them.  I mean, sure it feels good to get positive feedback and be recognized for creating something that lands with somebody.  But I’m not going to FAKE something to accomplish that.  I don’t write negative reviews – I only share things that move me and that I think some other folks might like, too.  Today is Steve Earle’s birthday, one of my favorite artists.  I shared a photo of me and him from when I met him at a Q&A book reading/signing event last May.  I didn’t share it to say “Neener-neener…I met Steve Earle and you didn’t…we’re close personal friends now!!!”  I posted it because he’s one of my favorite artists and I think it’s cool as hell that I was blessed with an opportunity to shake his hand and tell him that I appreciate what he does.  By sharing the photo, I hope to share my excitement.

The third situation, from this morning, is the one that hurts the least.  I mean, the girl was up early on her way to school.  We all have bad days.  Her boyfriend was getting back in the truck as I was leaving, for all I know they’d had a teenage love spat before he got out.  And, of course, she’s a 16 year old girl.  If the drama my five year old daughter can exhibit is any kind of indication of what people say I can expect from a teenage girl…yikes.  But still…I looked up and our eyes met in what I would call an everyday intimate situation.  I mean, it wasn’t intimate, but our faces were like a foot and a half apart and we locked eyes.  So, I chose to acknowledge her existence as a human.   I didn’t expect much back; but something other than pursed lips and a death stare would have been nice. 

I don’t say any of these things to make me out to be a victim, OR to make me out to be a good guy.  I encouraged the workers at Subway who had gotten yelled at because I know plenty of folks who work in the service industry and get treated badly and I thought they might need a pick-me-up.  Not ‘cause I’m The Man.  I write about what I write about because I like it and I share it in the hopes that someone else will either be turned onto something new, or that they’ll find solidarity in someone sharing thoughts on something they like, too.  I didn’t wave at the girl at the gas station to be Mr. Personality.  I did it because we were close, made eye contact, and it seemed like what a human should do to another human.  None of these things make me special.

Life is tough for everyone.  It’s the toughest thing any of us will go through.  I just wish we could take a page from the philosophy of Dudeism that I love so much and chill out and just lay back a little bit.  Someone forgot to tell you they wanted bacon on their sandwich and now you have to turn back around and restart the microwave.  If that’s the worst thing that happens to you today – I want your job.  Someone gives you a slight head nod and a wave when you’re having a crappy morning.  Take that as a sign of affirmation and solidarity that we’re in this stupid life thing together and it’s hard for both of us.  I did it to acknowledge you’re there and that you’re valuable and I hope you make it through the day OK.  You don’t like a blog someone wrote?  Go find another one that trips your trigger.  Save the time and effort you totally wasted by writing negativity on their creation.

Life is tough enough on its own.  There’s no need to make it any tougher than it already is. Chill out.  Lay back.  As The Dude says – abide.  Give people a pass.  Find some way to connect with the people in the world around you.  We’re all we’ve got.  THIS is life.  I feel like there’s a growing disillusionment among people in general because life isn’t what they thought it would be or what they want it to be.  This is it, folks.  It’s passing us by while we’re spending our time being negative because it’s not how we want it.  Let’s make it as tolerable and enjoyable as we can. 

Be excellent to each other.


  1. Hello, Ryan. Today is the first I've ever heard of you, but I like you already. Like many travels along the internet, twists and turns can take you places you never expected to go. I started tonight by watching a rebroadcast of the 2012 Americana Music Association Honors & Awards (my version of an anti-grammy awards stance...and the coincidence of it being broadcast tonight was not lost on me!). Anyway, many clicks later I landed on your blog, mostly via exploring the new Ben Harper/Charlie Musselwhite release. After reading your review I read the post above and was hooked from the first sentence. Who writes about Subway sandwiches with microwaved bacon?! But it was your three stories that I really related to, particularly this past week, as I am in a customer service related job myself (express package delivery). I had an experience in a local Subway too that drove me nuts. Long story short, a female 40ish Subway customer was so adamant about the non-English speaking and lone sandwich maker NOT stopping to sign for a package for 10 seconds until her sandwich was done being prepared. "She's making MY sandwich!" was sneered my way. She added a few more negative comments as I exited, planning to return later. But it was her tone that got to me. While I'm trying to learn better to not sweat the small stuff, I'm also more aware of others that sweat even smaller stuff. Just like the lady nuking your bacon.
    Today at a birthday party I had a conversation with a friend about what makes the city of New Orleans (which she had just visited for the first time) so special. We both agreed that music and food are tops, but it's the people there that make it great. Folks say hello to each other. They pass on that pick-me-up, that wave or slight head nod. A little acknowledgment that, as you say, this is life. We're in this together. Find a way to connect.
    So, me landing on your blog today, I realize, was not an accident. I will share your blog post with a few folks. I'll listen to some of the artists on your site that I've not heard and share them with others. And try to be more excellent to them, too!
    Thanks for what you wrote. Long live The Dude!
    Jim Vermeys (Fedex man, bass player)
    Martinez, CA (bay area)

  2. Jim - Your comments blessed me today, man. Thanks for stopping by and checking things out! Hope to hear from you again sometime!!