3 Kinds of People That Need to Go Away
For the last couple of years, I've made a bit of a habit of writing about all the irritating, everyday people I'd like to murder. It might seem like an unhealthy fixation, but my therapist says it helps to talk about it. I'm just kidding. I don't have a therapist.
In the interest of keeping things fresh, however, I have been staying away from this topic for months, drinking chamomile tea and meditating. But last week, I had a major setback when Cracked Editor-in-Chief Jack O'Brien rejected my latest column, 5 Things You Can Murder With a Machete. I know, right? Some BS about all five of my entries being Adam Tod Brown. Whatever.
Look, Adam, my machete's got your name on it. Literally.
So with my mellow thoroughly harshed, I decided to let my dark passenger draft another old-school hatey column, but maybe I'm getting old, because my rage doesn't rise to the level of homicide anymore. No doubt these people make me mad, indignant, even furious, but the rage gives way to sadness. A sadness that comes from knowing that people like this will always exist, and even if you beat them to death whack-a-mole style with your hammer of justice, more will merely rise up to take their place.
People Who Think They're Crafty for Doing Things Better People Are Ashamed Of
The first entry on this list belongs to a memory that has infuriated me since my first day of college. The day before registration, my parents piled me and a lot of my crap into the family car and headed north. I bet that's true for a lot of you (except if you go to school in the south and the part about it being my parents). The Ithaca hotels had been booked solid for months, and we were lucky to secure some lodging on the outside of town.
Big Red is Cornell's nickname, and also the name of the rash caused by this hotel's bedbugs.
The next morning, we headed to campus and saw lots of kids with their folks looking at maps and buying stupid bumper sticks and T-shirts. One of those kids was from my old high school. Her folks and mine made small talk and exchanged pleasantries until talk turned to what hotel we'd been staying at. Y'see, her family had managed to book the hotel right on campus (which was run by the hotel school. Yeah, Cornell has a hotel school. Super weird. In my day, it also had the most attractive students -- although any 17-year-old kid who knows they want to be a hotel administrator when they grow up doesn't deserve to have sex, in my opinion). In any event, you might be wondering how this family got such primo lodging. Well, they were only too happy to tell us.
"Well, y'know what the trick is," her mom said. "You just ask to speak to the manager and tell them you're traveling with a handicapped person and can they please help you."
Did I mention that no one in this family was handicapped? What was worse than this filthy lie was the pride she took in telling it. Like all the people who don't claim misfortune falsely for the purposes of tricking undeserving charity out of others just aren't as smart as she.
I was 23 cents short for my cafe latte, but then I had the brilliant idea to tell the barista that I was dying of cancer and late for my chemo appointment. Genius.
Bonus Anecdote Ooh, lucky you! I have another example to explain this point. No extra charge, though. You still get this content for the same price of nothing. OK. Here goes:
Although she's dead now, there used to be a fairly well-known playwright named Wendy Wasserstein (she won a Tony for The Heidi Chronicles). Think of her as a less funny, less talented Neil Simon. But without a penis. And also dead. In any event, Wasserstein was on Letterman one day promoting her new play and told a story about how she was a NYC native and how her family would go to see the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall every year. For non-New Yorkers, that's like a big deal institution thing. People come from all over and wait in really long lines. Well, turns out Wendy lived like just a subway ride away and each year her family would do this cute thing where they'd walk to the front of this long line of people waiting in the cold, and lie. They'd say they were a family from Arkansas or something who had driven miles and miles for the show and now they were afraid their kids won't get to see it. According to Wasserstein, that worked like a charm; Radio City would let them cut the line and give them seats front and center. Isn't that great? Oh, she was so pleased.
Pictured above: The amount of shame Wasserstein felt when telling this story.
And even though I was a kid watching TV, I asked, "What about all those families who actually had driven miles to see the show? Why does your ass deserve that seat more than they do?" And I have to believe that if she were here, she'd say it was because she had the brains or guts to come up with that great lie. Well, it was a shameful lie. A disgraceful thing to say, and each and every year, it probably did help fuck some more honest, unassuming person out of a deserved seat. Just as there must be handicapped people staying farther from their destination because some gum-chewing mom has the audacity to tell head-shakingly awful lies when making travel arrangements. Does that not occur to these people, or do they just not care? I'm not sure, but even worse than the deceit is the pride they take in it. Most of the world is smart and brave enough to craft some deceit; the emotion you should be feeling is shame.
Celebrities Who Abuse Social Media to Repair Psychological Scars
If you follow me on Twitter, you know I believe Twitter lets you get to know some celebrities better than you wanted to. Someone's ability to act well in a film or deliver a stunning guitar solo, is no guarantee they won't be tedious -- even in 140 characters or less. But even worse is finding out that there are celebrities who've realized their wildest dreams, are famous the world over, are uber-rich, and are still crippled messes of needy self-doubt.
No. Only the last part of that description applies to me.
I'm not going to name names, because I'm a coward and a hypocrite who would still probably swoon at the chance to meet these folks, but Twitter has ruined more than at least one of my comedy heroes by revealing that despite all their artistic and commercial success, they still have the self-esteem of a morbidly obese teenage girl with a skin condition at the meanest junior high school in the world. These are the celebs who drop their desperation in tweets, trolling for love.
I saw one of my comedy heroes tell his fans that he totally like didn't care at all that some newspaper called him fat. I'm paraphrasing, but it was something like "The Star called me fat. Too bad I don't care! Haha!" Guess what? He got flooded with oodles of replies. "Oh, screw them! You look great!" Can you imagine being a multimillionaire at the height of your career and still having a desperate need to turn the entire World Wide Web into your gay best friend?
"Girl, any moviegoer would be crazy not to see your movies."
And then there are the other celebrities who retweet their detractors solely so that their rabid fans can devour them as a sacrifice to their Twitter king. That's really not the worst thing in the world, but it did steal a little of my breath to see another one of my heroes actually instruct his fans to do so. Even worse, it was merely in response to some faceless dude saying he didn't like a particular film.
So here's a tip to celebs abusing their social media accounts for this purpose: If you own more than three homes, have the respect of your peers and millions of adoring fans, are creating the art you want to make, and still have a huge pit of crippling need, Twitter won't be able to fix that for you. Invest in a battery of therapists, reconnect with your distant mom, murder the girl who rejected you in seventh grade and wear her skin, but, seriously, we can't help you.
Bonus Anecdote I have to make one aside. Y'know who is nothing like the folks above? Singer-songwriter Aimee Mann, who I've written about before. Once after tweeting about how file sharing was economically damaging the livelihood of musicians, some clod replied something mindless about how music was inherently worthless in this day and age. She retweeted his sentiments, I'm guessing to let people know what kind of mentality she was up against. Because I'm a terrible person, however, I proceeded to give this dude the tweeter-mauling of a lifetime. (I'm badass, baby. Don't mess with me.) He then cried about it, saying Aimee had sicced her fans on him -- a charge she flatly denied and I believe. My only point here is that not everyone on Twitter is a terrible person, just me, and I'm sorry some of my vitriol made Aimee Mann look like something she wasn't -- even to this Twitter assclown. Go buy all her albums to make me feel better.
People Who Are Too Arrogant to Argue
If you ask most people to picture an arrogant person, they will get an image of some opinionated guy, confidently laying out his beliefs like gospel for all to hear. Lots of people don't care much for that. They like quieter folks. And it's true that there are some quiet people out there who are humble. Of course, some are just riddled with so much insecurity that they would never dream of expressing their thoughts and feelings out loud. But there is a third category of reserved people who are not meek, humble or even unsure of themselves. And even though you'll never see them getting down into the muck of contrary opinions, they are not without strong points of view. These are the people who are simply too arrogant to even think of arguing with you.
"Right. That's interesting that you think that. I have a different point of view I won't be sharing with you."
Oddly, because they speak quietly or not at all, some people view them as mature or responsible. If you force them to speak, you'll get some sort of beleaguered drawl designed not to test the validity of their point of view against a focus group of people, but to shut down any further inquiry. I find these people more obnoxious, overbearing and, most of all, insufferably arrogant than any loudmouths pontificating their beliefs for all to hear.
Why? Well, let's start by realizing there are two reasons for expressing an opinion. Yes, for some (like dictators, I guess), expressing opinions is about bullying others into believing you, but that's hardly the rule. Many people express opinions to elucidate, to validate and even to test the accuracy of their own beliefs. Certainly, for myself, expressing opinions is meant to be the start of a conversation. Speaking with conviction is not synonymous with closing down conversation. Some of the best moments of being alive are having someone change your mind. And in the process of debate, even subtle disagreements can refine your analysis, making your own beliefs clearer to you. It is a basis of interaction. Unless your opinions are only didactic and you simply do not want to hear a response, expressing opinions can be an act of humility. The speaker is saying I care enough about you to tell you something and I'm interested enough that I believe there's a possibility there is something you might teach me. Maybe that explains why I create opinionated, sometimes vitriolic stuff for the Net, but still wade through the comments it generates on the chance someone can teach me something.
Sometimes it's a very difficult search ...
But why wouldn't someone take the time to argue? Often, it's because their mind is already made up. They simply do not believe there is anything that another can teach them. They have formed their views and have no desire to test it against another person. Maybe they do have people they respect, a trusted cadre of advisers, but if they're not arguing with you, then you know for sure you're not one of them. You don't rate. They have nothing to learn from you. So who's more overbearingly arrogant and obnoxious: the guy spouting his beliefs at you or the dude who wouldn't even think to bother to respond to yours?
The answer will not be found in the new episode of HATE BY NUMBERS. But watch anyway. Also, be sure to follow Gladstone on Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest regarding Notes from the Internet Apocalypse. And then there's his website and Tumblr, too.